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November 4th, 2012:

Weekend link dump for November 4

It’s almost over, it’s almost over, it’s almost over…

Paul Krugman writes the introduction for a new edition of Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” trilogy. You may commence having your nerdgasm now.

This is sort of like Kickstarter in reverse.

“Common sense” economic policies usually aren’t the least bit sensical.

Chocolate chirp cookies. And no, that’s not a typo.

Mitt Romney’s poverty plan is to make things even worse for poor people.

Activity forecasting will soon be a thing.

Attributing everything that happens to God’s will will take you to some highly questionably theological conclusions.

Ted Forth vs. Trick-or-Treaters. Better luck next year, dude.

A pox on lazy editorial writers.

I could have told this fellow that Ann Coulter wasn’t worth the effort to be polite. She has no compunction to act like a decent human being.

Now would be a bad time to cut emergency disaster funds, don’t you think?

Yet another reason why I’ve never understood “libertarians”.

What Tami Taylor says. Also, this, in case y’all haven’t seen it yet.

“David Brooks’ M.O. is to approach every political question from a lofty, ostensibly non-partisan perch, wheeling in the sky above the grubby partisans before descending to earth at a point that just happens to coincide with the practical needs of the Republican Party.”

Heck of a hatchet job, Brownie.

“It might be an interesting exercise to create an NCAA-style bracket competition to determine the Worst International Affairs Essay of 2012.”

Zombies want you to vote. You should do what the zombies want.

They love Greg Abbott in Belarus.

Send lawyers, guns, and money to all of the usual places. Then send more lawyers.

Michael Bloomberg endorses President Obama. Tom Friedman’s head explodes.

You should have voted early.

“If congressional Republicans are truly a destructive and irrational force in American politics—and God knows, I agree with [David] Frum about that—the answer is to fight them, not to surrender to them.”

Final EV totals

Early voting was up from 2008, but not quite as much as the initial hype might have led to you think.

By the time early voting in Texas ended Friday night, an estimated two-thirds of those expected to cast a ballot in Harris County had already done so.

That trend is mirrored around the country and across the state. In 2008’s record-setting general election, almost half the ballots in Texas were cast early. Fort Bend County saw three-quarters of its 200,000 votes come in before Election Day. Harris and Montgomery counties were around 65 percent. If politics are changing, elections are following suit – virtually all states are reporting spiraling early balloting.

“I think it will continue to be a higher and higher number,” said Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart, whose office oversees most local elections. “The convenience of early voting brings people out. And we’ve been pushing hard on early voting this time so people can avoid the confusion of going to the wrong polling place on Election Day.”


Daily in-person voting totals in Harris County have topped 50,000 in nine of the last 12 days. The number of votes cast Friday at the county’s 37 voting locations was not available at deadline. At least two polling places were still reporting voters in line as late as 10 p.m.

Du-Ha Kim Nguyen, voter outreach coordinator at the county clerk’s office, said that as of 10 p.m., 700,019 ballots had been cast in the two weeks of early voting.

“We had people backing up traffic in some locations,” Stanart said. “Those people were determined to vote early.”

Here’s the final spreadsheet. I have the in person total at 700,216, the total that was on the daily record of early voting that Kim sends out. In 2008, the in person total was 678,312, so the in person early vote total was 3.2% higher this year. There were also 66,310 mail ballots returned out of 92,290 sent (71.8% return rate) versus 52,502 ballots returned out of 76,187 mailed in 2008 (68.9% return rate). Note that these totals are as of the end of early voting; final totals are higher because more mail ballots arrive between Friday and Tuesday.

What does this mean for final turnout? In 2008, a bit less than 62% of all ballots were cast as of the end of early voting. If the exact same percentage of ballots were cast early or via mail this year, final turnout will be over 1.24 million – 1,246,819, to be ridiculously precise. That’s pretty close to the 1.222 million Stan Stanart predicted after Day One of early voting. I could see it going either way, so let’s just call this the over/under line and leave it at that.

There are several questions to ponder as we await Tuesday. Republicans clearly drove the gain in early voting – they swarmed the polls on the first couple of days, with Democrats slowly catching up after that. There were more early ballots cast in Republican locations this year, while totals were down a notch in some Democratic locations. Straight comparisons are a bit dicey to make because there are different locations this year, but that’s the basic size of it. So the questions are:

– How much of the Republican gain in early voting was driven by behavioral change, and how much is them finding new voters? I’ve no doubt that behavioral change is a significant portion of it, but is it 50% of it or 90% of it? Putting it another way, will Republicans run out of voters on Tuesday as Democrats did in 2008?

– The same question applies to Democrats. How much of that dip in early voting is people deciding to wait till Election Day – there were some pretty ferocious lines at many EV locations in 2008, which may have convinced some people it’s no more convenient than Election Day – and how much of it is people not bothering to vote?

– President Obama won almost 53% of the vote nationally in 2008, but 51% is likely his ceiling this year. If the Harris County electorate were identical to 2008, you’d expect him to finish below 50% here, which would needless to say be bad news for other countywide Dems. But the electorate is not going to be the same, and if changes to the electorate roughly mirror the changes in demographics in Harris County, then the two effects could cancel out. This is basically another way of stating the first two questions.

– In 2008 in Harris County, President Obama underperformed the Democratic slate in certain parts of town, specifically the Latino State Rep districts and what I called the “Bubba” districts, HDs 128 and 144. He overperformed the slate in HD134. (The same dynamic was largely true at the state level – Obama underperformed in Latino and rural – mostly East Texas – areas, and overperformed in some affluent suburban areas.) What will his performance relative to the rest of the ticket look like this year? If the national polling numbers for Latinos are indicative, I’d expect Obama to do better in those areas, and I’d also expect him to do worse in the overperformance areas.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Here’s Greg‘s take. What questions do you have in mind for Tuesday based on what we’ve seen so far?

Perryman for expanding Medicaid

Economist Ray Perryman makes the straightforward economic case for expanding Medicaid in Texas.

Ray Perryman

According to our analysis, every $1 spent by the State of Texas to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act returns $1.29 in dynamic State government revenue during the first 10 years of the expansion.

Medicaid expenditures lead to substantial economic activity, federal funds inflow, reduction in costs for uncompensated care and insurance, and enhanced productivity from a healthier population. When these outcomes and the related multiplier effects are considered, the program actually far more than pays for itself and provides a notable economic stimulus. This pattern also continues beyond the initial 10 years.


During the first 10 years after implementation of a Medicaid expansion, The Perryman Group estimates that the total cumulative gross benefits to the state economy include $270.0 billion (in 2012 dollars) in output (real gross product) and 3,174,640 person-years of employment.

These overall gains stem from spending for health care which would be provided through the expansion, reducing uncompensated care (and, thus, the local government and private funds needed to pay for it), and improving outcomes through better care (reducing morbidity and mortality and thus increasing productivity).

State revenues required to implement the Medicaid expansion will of necessity be diverted from other potential uses, either in terms of the fiscal resources funding other public goods and services, lower taxes allowing for greater private sector activity, or some combination of spending increases and tax reductions. When this diversion is accounted for, the outcomes from expanding Medicaid are still $255.8 billion (in 2012 dollars) in output (real gross product) and 3,031,400 person-years of employment (about 300,000 per annum during the first 10 years of implementation).

Federal Medicaid funding returned to the state would total $6.78 for every dollar of state funds spent. The federal tax burden on Texas citizens and firms will remain the same irrespective of whether the state chooses to receive these benefits. The burden on local government entities is reduced (by $1.21 for every dollar of state funds for Medicaid expansion), while dynamic local government revenue rises by $0.51 per dollar of state money expended. Insurance premiums would be less due to a reduction in uncompensated care, and overall quality of life and productivity would be enhanced.

For every dollar spent by the State for additional Medicaid coverage, total spending in the economy would go up by $43.50, output (real gross product) would rise by $21.72, personal income would grow by $14.34, and retail sales would expand by $6.13. In addition, the gains rise over time with population growth and aging and the resulting increase in the need for health care.

The bottom line is that the relevant question at present is not philosophical, but practical.

Unfortunately, it’s political. If such things as “data” and “facts” could sway Rick Perry, Ray Perryman would not have needed to write this. You can see Perryman’s press release here, his report here, and his report with tables included here. Via Grits, who reminds us again that the criminal justice system, specifically in how it deals with mentally ill defendants, would also benefit greatly from Medicaid expansion.

TAPPS changes its playoff policy

Good for them.

The Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, which faced controversy last spring in a basketball tournament scheduling issue with a local Orthodox Jewish school, has amended its bylaws to ensure that its statewide high school competitions will not conflict with “the Sabbath and religious days of observance” of member schools.

The policy change, posted on the TAPPS website, is designed “to provide the opportunity for all of our member schools to participate in team sports,” the group said.

TAPPS last spring rescheduled its state boys basketball tournament when it chose not to fight legal action by parents of students attending Beren Academy, an Orthodox Jewish school in Houston whose team had qualified for the tournament but refused to play its scheduled game on Friday during the Jewish Sabbath.


TAPPS traditionally has prohibited events on Sunday to coincide with Christian days of worship, and the group also noted that it tries to comply with the National Federation of High School Associations policy that calls for weekend competition to limit students’ time away from classroom.

The amended policy avoiding statewide events on “religious days of observance,” a clear reference to schools associated with denominations that observe the Sabbath on Friday or Saturday, is designed to make competitions “accessible to all member schools and the students that they serve.”

See here for all the background. As Jerome Solomon says, now we can move on.

Closing arguments for the Metro referendum

One way or another, this argument will be settled on Tuesday. What happens after that is still anyone’s guess.

The referendum on Tuesday’s ballot asks whether to continue spending some public transit sales tax money on streets and bridges. Opponents have campaigned against it by recasting the question: Should transit money be spent on roads or rail?

“You cannot do rail expansion if this thing passes,” said David Crossley, president of Houston Tomorrow, a nonprofit organization that studies urban issues to inform discussions of growth and the leading voice against the Metro proposition. “We’re not going to do rail expansion ever again.”

Mayor Annise Parker and the chairman she appointed to the Metro board, Gilbert Garcia, insist that passage of the proposition makes rail expansion more likely. One of the stated purposes of the referendum is to allow Metro to pay down debt, freeing up borrowing capacity that could be used on future rail lines. Referendum opponents are wrong when they say its passage will delay rail, Parker said Wednesday.

“Either they believe that the magic tooth fairy in Washington will shower us with federal transit dollars in the midst of a still very difficult budget cycle, or we’re going to have to pay for that next line that we build ourselves,” she said. “If we want to pay for that line ourselves, once again, we’re not creditworthy unless we pay down our debt. So, how is this going to slow down rail?”

Crossley’s answer to that, which you can hear in the interview I did with him, would be that with the full penny of Metro’s sales tax going to the agency it would be able to afford to do a lot more of the work on the University Line by itself. It’s still not enough for all of it, however, and part of Crossley’s solution depends on the city doing some of the road and utility work. The city’s plan for transit corridors already includes whatever preparations are needed for transit in those corridors, but there’s always a question of timing and priority, as well as how constrained the city might be financially if it lost GMP funds. It’s really not clear to me how this would play out under either scenario.

In the final weeks of the campaign, Crossley and other rail supporters have stepped up their campaign, raising what Crossley estimated is $16,000. He has spent it on 280,000 robocalls and on yard signs, bumper stickers and T-shirts.

In a KUHF/KHOU poll late last month, 43 percent of respondents said they favored the referendum to 28 percent against. The question read to respondents stated that the additional money Metro picks up if the proposition passes will go toward buses, shelters and paying off debt “and not on rail,” though the referendum does not specifically state that. Further clouding the results was that 27 percent were undecided.

“The voters are confused,” said Rice University political science professor Robert Stein, who helped administer the poll. “What’s on the ballot doesn’t tell voters enough to figure out what to do.”

One single poll can only tell you so much. I’ve had a pretty good feeling about the bond issues from the beginning, before that KHOU poll suggested they were winning. With the Metro referendum, regardless of what the poll says, I feel it could go either way. From what I’ve seen in email and on Facebook, the Crossley message has been getting through. I just don’t know whether it’s too little, too late, or not.