Election prediction: Barack Obama wins 51/49

Continuing my tradition of December election predictions (2007), let me note that I am not listening to any news about the 2012 Presidential election. I believe that Barack Obama will win the general election by a slim margin, e.g., 51/49 percent of the popular vote. Here are my reasons:

  • people are afraid of change and will favor an incumbent if one is available
  • Obama ended the Iraq war
  • Americans know in their hearts that Obama is not responsible for the stagnant economy

The last point is the one that may need elaboration. If the economy isn’t growing, wouldn’t voters be enthusiastic about replacing the President? My belief is that Americans are smart enough to recognize that one hard-working high-achieving person such as Obama cannot compensate for 313 million Americans who, on average, don’t work all that hard and haven’t achieved very much. Furthermore, as evidenced by the lack of politicians at all levels who are willing to admit that we can’t pay for all of the stuff that we want, Americans aren’t in the mood to confront reality.

We know that a country of people who earn a median wage of $16.27 per hour (source) cannot afford to pay $100,000-200,000/year pensions to policemen and firefighters who retire at 42 or 50. We know that we can’t afford our massive military or unlimited payments to Medicare providers. We know that we can’t afford to pay working-age people to sit at home and collect 99 weeks of unemployment benefits. We know that China is growing 10 percent per year because businesses find employees there who have a better education and work ethic. We know that countries like Singapore now enjoy a higher per capita income than the U.S. does partly because they’ve figured out how to deliver basic government services as a tiny fraction of the cost (as a percentage of GDP). We know that our public schools are set up to benefit employees rather than students and therefore the outlook for competitiveness is not improving.

We don’t want to do anything about these issues, however, which is why reelecting our current crop of politicians, including Obama, is the most sensible thing to do.

26 Comments

  1. AJ

    December 31, 2011 @ 10:50 pm

    1

    As a Singapore resident and a visitor to the US who has observed the American work ethic, I agree wholeheartedly.

    You will not find 100k/year cleaning workers in Singapore unlike some state employees in the US.

    In fact, the experience on landing in JFK is a testament of how much the US has fallen and how much the rest of the world has caught up. JFK is more hideous and inefficient than most third-world airports.

  2. David Wihl

    January 1, 2012 @ 3:39 am

    2

    Agreed. Some other reasons:
    . Bin Laden was caught.
    . There doesn’t appear to be a viable alternative candidate.

    Comparison to Singapore isn’t fair as the scale, geography and world obligations are not equivalent.

  3. Patrick

    January 2, 2012 @ 1:29 am

    3

    Obama “ended” the Iraq war by surrendering. Thanks to the “Arab Spring” a.k.a. Muslim Brotherhood, Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Turkey, and others are going to look more and more like Iran in the coming years.

  4. M

    January 2, 2012 @ 4:21 am

    4

    Phil,
    Since you called the 2008 Obama win far, far in advance, I am afraid you are going to be correct again. But do you think Obama can win any of the following so-called battleground states? Ohio, Florida, Missouri, Colorado, Nevada, Virginia, and North Carolina. It is gonna be really tough.

  5. ArthurD

    January 2, 2012 @ 5:27 am

    5

    Comparing income in Singapore to the US as a whole is meaningless, comparing it to a dense urban area like Chicago would be a better comparison. However economic statistics aren’t everything I still do not envy the residents of places like Singapore or Hong Kong who may have 10 or 20 percent more income but live in microscopic apartments, rely on public transport to get around and have to deal with huge crowds everywhere they go.

  6. SuperMike

    January 2, 2012 @ 1:37 pm

    6

    “…Americans are smart enough to recognize that one hard-working high-achieving person such as Obama cannot compensate for 313 million Americans who…” I’d love to believe this, but unfortunately the way public discourse has been shaped by the media essentially depicts the President and the government in a sort of a pharonic pose, doing inscrutable things in a far off place to ensure prosperity across the land. I don’t believe the economy works that way, but clearly a lot of people do. (And the fact that the suburbs of D.C. now contain many of the richest counties suspect that our politicians have voted to make it more like that)

    In any case, you’ve called the popular vote, but, at least for now, the popular vote doesn’t count. What’s the electoral vote going to look like?

  7. Jerry

    January 2, 2012 @ 1:52 pm

    7

    One other thing that points to an Obama victory: by the next election we might be in a war with Iran, and presidents waging a war are usually re-elected.

  8. philg

    January 2, 2012 @ 2:38 pm

    8

    Folks who’ve asked about specific states or electoral votes: I’m not following this election carefully enough to guess at this. With 51 percent popular I am assuming that Obama will win enough electoral votes. Also remember that both sides are staffed with professionals who will concentrate on the states whose voters actually determine the outcome (e.g., not Massachusetts).

  9. paul kramarchyk

    January 2, 2012 @ 10:45 pm

    9

    Obama will lose. This time around there won’t be enough independents and disenchanted Republicans willing to wait in line long enough to reject a tired, old POW and zoomy hockey mom in favor of enlightened hope. The Wall St. bailout killed any hope that we are a nation of people that share a common fate. The United States is no longer a “nation.” The U.S. is a mall with 300 million shops. And Wall St. is the anchor store with a privileged perch in the pecking order. A nation shares both the blessings and the burdens of national decision making. Mall shops share a parking lot and contracts the security. We are trapped in the vortex of history’s toilet. Well past the Schwarzschild radius (if there is such a thing for a spiraling latrine).

  10. Tia

    January 3, 2012 @ 3:37 am

    10

    As a janitor at a intl. airport, IE someone who cleans up rich people’s shit for a living, I thought Id comment on the views of American working class in this article.mr. Greenspun and several commenters seem to think america’s slow economy stem from laziness and overpay in jobs like mine. ” Obama cannot compensate for 313 million Americans who, on average, don’t work all that hard and haven’t achieved very much…” “You will not find 100k/year cleaning workers in Singapore unlike some state employees in the US.” (wtf…mr. AJ was that number supposed to be a joke?) Apparently America’s economy would be just rolling along if we treated people in fields that don’t require a college degree like subhuman worker ants,as they are treated in east asia (better work ethic! lol). I’ll take a slower economy, then! I just get disgusted,hearing smug educated rich people with great lives talk about how poor uneducated people are to blame for america’s problems. I’ll bet nobody else here had to clean up shit for a living.

    Sorry for the venting. I hope my daughter, who is going to univrersity for engineering and physics and who showed me this website, does not come home with these views on people like her poor mum. Perhaps I would have been better off sending her to community college.

    A final note…Mr. AJ offered a generalization about americans from his personal experience. Heres a generalization from my personal experience. Want to know who the most rude and disgusting travelers are? Yup, it’s East Asians. Whose advanced cultures of cleanliness, sensitivity, and respect doesn’t prevent them from continually shitting on toilet seats and throwing used kotex in the toilet. Leaving a bloody, shitty mess and clogged toilet for me to clean up in my shift.

  11. CCG

    January 3, 2012 @ 5:25 am

    11

    I’ve been to Singapore. I didn’t find the crowding to be that bad (and I loathe crowds). I wouldn’t recommend going to Orchard Street on a weekend, but then I don’t drive around my home town on weekends either due to the idiot drivers. In Singapore went everywhere on foot (a bicycle would have been a big help). I saw plenty of traffic but no traffic jams. The heat and humidity were what I had trouble with. If you can tolerate that, I’d recommend a visit.

    As for what happened to the American work ethic, I’d say Atlas Shrugged summarizes it nicely. I don’t even want to get started ranting on that subject.

  12. Jagadeesh Venugopal

    January 3, 2012 @ 11:09 am

    12

    I would love for there to be some competition to Barack Obama. Not necessarily that I hate him as a person, but I’d like to see some more entrants into the marketplace of ideas. Re-election should not be a shoo-in.

    Ron Paul seems to have some good ideas, but the taint of allegedly racist newsletters seems to get in the way in a very significant manner. Plus, his views are too radically libertarian for general public consumption.

    That leaves the revolving Republican door. Perry one day, Cain the next, and Gingrich the third. Now I hear it is Rick Santorum. Romney cannot close the deal despite having fought the longest. Do they have sufficient centrist appeal to get elected? Do they have some smart ideas on where they want to take the nation and economy? Afraid negative on both questions.

  13. philg

    January 3, 2012 @ 12:07 pm

    13

    Tia: Although my memories of being an airline pilot based at JFK are not primarily of sparkling clean bathrooms, I did not intend to denigrate janitors or anyone else who works with his or her hands. Remember that I said “on average” Americans are not especially hard working or high achieving. You have to factor in the millions of folks who are collecting their 99 weeks of unemployment. They are doing zero work and it is not an especially impressive achievement to be unemployed. There isn’t a single person in Singapore who is collecting his or her 99th week of unemployment (indeed, http://www.legco.gov.hk/yr99-00/english/sec/library/e17.pdf seems to indicate that there is no government-run unemployment insurance system in Singapore at all).

    You might be working very hard, Tia, but plenty of your fellow citizens are working between 0 and 6 hours per week.

  14. Geoff

    January 3, 2012 @ 1:23 pm

    14

    I agree that Americans don’t seem particularly interested in confronting. But is the opposition (Republican) party losing because it is presenting a cold, objective assessment of the grim situation we’re in?

    There is no choice between a “tax and spend liberal” and a “fiscal conservative”, because there are no fiscal conservatives (well, not with a chance of winning). It seems to me like we’ll be choosing between a “tax a bit more and borrow a lot more” democrat and a “cut taxes and borrow an obscene amount more” republican. The republican candidate will wear the halo of the fiscal conservative, but if we elect a republican, we’ll get a “borrow and spend conservative”, and, in time, another massive banking bailout.

    I agree that an unwillingness to confront reality could help Obama to the extent that people will be willing to vote for him, but how is it an advantage relative to the republicans? Is Obama even more detached from reality than the republican lineup?

  15. philg

    January 3, 2012 @ 3:44 pm

    15

    Geoff: The Republican party is presenting a cold objective assessment? That’s news to me. I don’t think that I’ve ever heard any reasonably popular politician tell Americans stuff that they don’t want to hear. It is tough to think of any politician who has said, for example, that we can’t afford to have public employees begin drawing an unfunded inflation-adjusted pension at age 42 or, in general, to pay government workers double what private-sector workers earn (see http://www.downsizinggovernment.org/overpaid-federal-workers ). Maybe some politicians might refer to these in an aside, but I haven’t heard any propose a concrete plan for doing anything about it.

  16. Quagmire

    January 3, 2012 @ 4:44 pm

    16

    Slightly on topic in terms of unemployment. This woman has been unemployed since 2007, PhD in Chemistry, also tenured professor who left for the bright future of genomics…

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204083204577080421127607002.html

    If smart scientists cannot find work, then the lazy 99ers may soon starve.

  17. Douglas Johnson

    January 3, 2012 @ 5:53 pm

    17

    Let me complain about the old line that “Americans voted for these policies.” No one outside of the government unions voted for these pension plans. Most of this stuff came on in the late 1990’s when the economy was chugging along and these back room deals could be struck without the public taking notice. In fact, the reason most cops aren’t making $250,000/yr (although in Valejo, CA all police captains make $300k/yr) is because the public would notice that. These insane public pensions were set up because the politician taking the bribe would likely be out of office once the consequence of his actions made the light of day.

    The other gripe I can’t stand is “both parties do it; they are all the same.” Please note the political giving on this chart. For each industry the political giving divides roughly evenly for Dems and Reps…all except that one column on the far left.

    http://www.antolin-davies.com/conventionalwisdom/lobbying.pdf

  18. Geoff

    January 3, 2012 @ 5:55 pm

    18

    Phil – I certainly didn’t mean to suggest that the republicans are providing a cold, objective assessment of the realities facing America – I intended communicate the absolute opposite! This is why I’m not sure that Obama will get any particular advantage out of the American aversion to “confronting reality.” Republicans seem equally allergic to this kind of talk, so it’s not like they’re losing votes to the democrats by being overly frank with the American people.

  19. philg

    January 3, 2012 @ 5:57 pm

    19

    Geoff: Sorry for misunderstanding. If neither party talks about the real challenges then I think it is fair to say that Americans don’t want to hear about them! We can’t blame politicians for acting or talking in a certain way. They are just mirrors of ourselves.

  20. ancienteyes

    January 4, 2012 @ 6:28 am

    20

    People are afraid not of change but of “Change”! Ergo the incumbent will be voted out of office.

  21. David Lloyd-Jones

    January 4, 2012 @ 11:52 am

    21

    Phil,

    My guess is you’re right, but there’s still a lot of room for things much stranger than a 2% eke-out result. What if the right wing nutsoes go on the warpath against Romney? Then we could be looking at a 55-35-5-2-2-1 sort of voter split.

    What if one of the rightwing nutsoes gets the Republican nomination? Then we might get a re-run of the LBJ-Goldwater numbers.

    Gonna be a fun year, for Americans at least. A scary one for the rest of us out here, who are victims of your crippled politics.

    -dlj.

  22. Bob Towery

    January 4, 2012 @ 7:03 pm

  23. Doug McKee

    January 4, 2012 @ 10:51 pm

    23

    I think Phil’s right about the the outcome (Obama wins a close one), but I think it’s going to have a lot more to do with Romney getting the GOP nomination and the country getting creeped out by the Mormon church. More here:

    http://highvariance.tumblr.com/post/15162564160/obama-vs-romney-2012

  24. wallyw

    January 5, 2012 @ 1:25 am

    24

    So is the conventionalwisdom/lobbying,pdf a great example of lying with statistics or what. If I just add up all the columns labeled “industry” on the first chart I get about $900 million, which dwarfs – about doubles – the supposedly almost off the chart left column for the labor unions, which are all combined into one column.

  25. Douglas Johnson

    January 5, 2012 @ 1:20 pm

    25

    @wallyw

    Why would you do that? That is, I don’t see what the aerospace industry has to do with the entertainment industry, and furthermore just about all the industries listed evenly divide between Dems and Reps how they give their money. Only Labor gives 90-something percent to Dems only.

  26. Mark C

    January 10, 2012 @ 5:14 am

    26

    “That is, I don’t see what the aerospace industry has to do with the entertainment industry”

    And I don’t see what aerospace unions have to do with entertainment industry unions either. Labor unions are not an industry.

    And no, “just about all” do no such thing. A large number of those industry donors are 2:1 or 3:1 in favor of the GOP.

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