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April 30, 2008

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And it's still worse that, even though she knows it's a bad idea and is relying on voter ignorance, that the voters are indeed ignorant enough that this strategy might work for her. That suggests a third explanation, that the electorate is more conservative than we think it is. Perhaps she has polls and demographics that tell her this is where they are. I don't know if that's true or not.

Those silly latte drinkers with their fancy-pants inelasticies

Yeah. Down-to-earth beer drinkers can always use a little elasticity in their pants.

"First, it shows that Clinton is more likely to use arguments that explicitly rely on voter ignorance."

Please. Clinton's ENTIRE CAMPAIGN has been dependent on voter ignorance, from the arguments that she's more "experienced" (than Biden or Dodd?) to "she's taken on the right wing and beaten them every time" (sorry, capitulation doesn't equal victory) to the idea that the Clintons' somehow put policies in place that caused the impressive growth through the late '90s, every argument she has made would have been easy to disprove with minimal investigation. Hell, I voted for Bill twice (though never in a primary) and, as a reasonably aware person in the '90s, I knew all of her campaign rhetoric was bullshit.

Unfortunately, the media decided not to challenge any of her foundational claims, and now progressives are left fighting for their lives due to flag pins and crazy pastors.

Sorry, that's a minor quibble, but I've been in a quibbling mood for the last few weeks.

Your post is excellent, and should be read by everyone wondering why there is such strong anti-Clinton feelings on the left.

This pander only reinforces my feeling that the statement she's "infinitely better than McCain" makes me think it needs to be downgraded to "moderately better" or even worse.
Here's the scenario that's in my head. Clinton wins the Presidency. But she does it with no mandate. As a result, she has little or no political capital. Republicans know this and obstruct and resist for two years. The midterms are a complete disaster for Dems, and the only path she sees to a second term is to sell out Democratic/Progressive principles with the hopes of getting a few wins as she runs for reelection.

mbuchel - whenever you get that temptation, go read hilzoy's health care posts (and the cohn/nyt articles she links to)

mccain is a different animal

I know, I know. And I just need to go back and view the "Bomb Iran" clip again.
I certainly wouldn't vote for him, but she's making it harder and harder to vote for her...

"Two, her guiding political philosophy is to avoid looking too liberal.'

Or three, her guiding political philosophy is to get elected through whatever means possible. I'll go with option three.

"-- Or three, her guiding political philosophy is to get elected through whatever means possible. I'll go with option three. --"

I like when she flip-flopped from taking the reasonable and serious stance on Iraq Withdrawal, stating that she expected to have 40k troops on the ground through 2012, to the "EVERYONE OUT BY THE END OF 2009!" platform when she was running in Texas and Ohio.

If I didn't know better, I'd begin to suspect that Hillary doesn't actually have a position on Iraq beyond what will get her to most political points in the shortest time.

If I didn't know better, I'd also suspect that Hillary is doing an absolutely horrible job at pandering. She's been bleeding support thru Pennsylvania and bleeding Super Delegates since Super Tuesday. She's run an absolutely horrible campaign with each new pander giving McCain more support than it gives to her.

Absolutely pathetic. How did she even plan to win in the fall?

It’s one thing for a good presidential candidate to embrace a bad idea. It’s worse when the candidate knows it’s a bad idea.

Is it? It surely makes the candidate a worse person overall, but would it make the candidate a worse president? That's a tough question.

Clinton (who, of course, remains infinitely superior to McCain).

That infinite gap keeps getting smaller all the time.

I actually agree that Hillary isn´t very progressive. Just like I agree with a number of critisisms on her point of view (including that this is pandering - but it might be smart pandering. Lowering gas prices would be a popular soundbite here too - and most people don't calculate)

I just don´t understand why you think Obama is *more* progressive.

I like Kate Hardings post on the subject.

And I haven't seen the fox interview, but from the transcript:

OBAMA: Well, on issues of regulation, I think that back in the '60s and '70s, a lot of the way we regulated industry was top down command and control. We're going to tell businesses exactly how to do things.

And I think that the Republican party and people who thought about the margins (ph) came with the notion that you know what, if you simply set some guidelines, some rules and incentives for businesses, let them figure out how they're going to for example reduce pollution. And a cap and trade system, for example, is a smarter way of doing it, controlling pollution, than dictating every single rule that a company has to abide by, which creates a lot of bureaucracy and red tape and oftentimes is less efficient.


publius: "She knows that this policy stinks, but she is assuming that low-information voters won’t know the difference."

Dear high-information publius:

Who said it's a long term policy meant to fix the problem? It's a short-term 3-month summer discount for people who buy gasoline.

Think of it like the Red Cross, sending in coffee and donuts to the residents of an area flooded after the levies overflowed: a temporary gesture of concern, until the resources can be put in place to rebuild the infrastructure needed to keep them high and dry next time around.

The 'working man' understands what's going on: elitist fancy-pants wonks want to control their lives by intellectual fiat -- governance based on SAT scores. And guess what -- wonks who base their political ambitions on wonkish solutions couched in wonkish terminology generally end up spilling their tears into their whipped cream lattes after losing the election to coalitions of the under-informed American electorate.

And by the way, in your zeal to condemn the pandering instincts of Hillary Clinton, you forgot to mention Obama's same pandering on the very same issue when, as an Illinois legislator, he voted at least three times to lift the state's 5% gasoline tax:

The tax holiday was finally approved during a special session in June of 2000, when Illinois motorists were furious that gas prices had just topped $2 a gallon in Chicago.

During one debate, he joked that he wanted signs on gas pumps in his district to say, "Senator Obama reduced your gasoline prices."


Dutch,

The quote is kind of vague in general, but I don't see what's wrong, "progressive" or not, with using a cap-and-trade system to deal with some forms of pollution.

dutch -- perhaps I'm dumber than the average bear, but the point you seem to want to make is not self-evident from the transcript you quote.

It's a short-term 3-month summer discount for people who buy gasoline.

No, Jay. It's not a discount. It will not affect the price of gasoline at the pump. It will simply transfer money from the government to the oil companies.

This has been discussed and explained many ways in previous threads.

Jay -- What you should also have discovered is that the gas tax "holiday" didn't work as intended in Illinois, so Obama learned a lesson.

This is not coffee and donuts to flood victims, unless the "temporary gesture of concern" ends up in Maine rather than New Orleans where it's needed.

I have to say that Clinton's policy to crank up the printing presses and hand out the extra-dollars to individual americans based on how much gas they use is a perfect solution to the gas crisis. And I find Obama's "that will just lead to more inflation and not solve anything" nay-saying to be elitist fancy-pants wonkery and I think he wants to control my life by intellectual fiat.

And I pay no attention to, e.g., obvious Clinton hater Paul Krugman:

Anyway, John McCain has a really bad idea on gasoline, Hillary Clinton is emulating him (but with a twist that makes her plan pointless rather than evil), and Barack Obama, to his credit, says no....The Clinton twist is that she proposes paying for the revenue loss with an excess profits tax on oil companies. In one pocket, out the other. So it’s pointless, not evil. But it is pointless, and disappointing.

And even less attention to even more obviously cliton-hating clinton-aides:

Clinton aides think that even if the measure is a limited way to reduce gas prices, it allows the candidate to bash oil companies and cast her opponent against an idea that has political appeal.

Bring me the print-and-handout-cash policy NOW!

marbel: I just don´t understand why you think Obama is *more* progressive.

Personally I don’t, and that’s the only reason I can consider voting for him. I mean, reading his positions on his site or listening to his stock stump speech should have me running screaming as far and as fast as I can get from him. But I agree that he tends to moderate that in other talks and interviews.

But a very progressive candidate just won’t win. There aren’t enough true liberal voters to swing that. If he doesn’t try to convince moderates he is at least somewhat moderate he loses them.

So someone is going to be disappointed here. Either liberals will be disappointed that he turns out not to be as progressive as they would like, or they’re happy and I feel like I’ve been had. They always have to come to the middle to be electable.

Bernard: The quote is kind of vague in general, but I don't see what's wrong, "progressive" or not, with using a cap-and-trade system to deal with some forms of pollution.

Not to speak for marbel, but I think the point was that Obama wasn’t real heavy on the regulatory angle – he was essentially promoting a Republican viewpoint. Put another way, I agreed with it all except cap and trade, so it’s probably not a very progressive position. ;)

Coalitions of the Under-Informed American Electorate: Good snark. Unfortunately too spot-on.

Hi dutch! I’d just been wondering where you were.

(With apologies to you):
As I noted on a thread a couple of days ago, Robert Reich, Bill’s Secretary of Labor and a super, came out for Obama recently; he explained on a bloggingheads segment that her unfair/unwise down-and-dirty campaigning had outraged him. Another Clinton cabinet member who’s come to feel she’s not the leader we need.

And sure, I’ll vote for her if I have to.
She’s a pro pol, for sure; but is this how the pros do it even if they’re not part of the Republican survival-of-the-fittest red-in-tooth-and-claw eternal war machine? Really?

I also don't think Obama is particularly progressive in his policies, but it's his approach to politics -- uniting the electorate to address the hard issues facing the country, the 50-state strategy -- that is progressive. I'll take it.

I really want someone to point out how this actaully going to be temporary, seriously one this gets passed can you honestly see a politician being willing to vote "to raise the price of gas" , in effect if this gets passed it may as well be permanent. Oh and for all the rhetoic about Hillary caring about "blue-collar folks" the estimates that this will put 300k+ Construction workers on the unemployment rolls seems to bely her concern-- but hey I bet they're elitist road crews so its okay.

When this year's version of the MN bridge collapse occurs I hope Obama shows up and points out what pays to prevent such tragedies, because a few crying mothers might put a damper on the idea of saving a half tank over the course of 3 months.

It's not a discount. It will not affect the price of gasoline at the pump. It will simply transfer money from the government to the oil companies.

I thought we all understood by now that Hillary's proposal, unlike McCain's, includes a windfall profits tax that would make up for the shortfall in gas tax revenues. So while it's zero-sum and thus pointless, for the reasons stated by Krugman, it would not transfer money to the oil companies, nor would it mean any less money in the public coffers to fix roads and bridges.

On the overall subject of pandering, treating the voters like rubes, etc., it's worthwhile to compare and contrast Obama's position on Social Security. It is, in fact, bad policy to devote even one penny of current revenues to "fixing" the nonexistent problem with Social Security - as Krugman will again tell you.

infinitely better than McCain

pedantic nitpick: assuming McCain represents the Ultimate Bad, if she was infinitely better than McCain, there would be no way for Obama to be better than she is. but he is better than she is.

now, she's certainly much better than McCain on a bunch of specific policy issues (most of them, probably). but on matters of personality, i can't say she's even a little better than McCain. sure, he's a rudderless crank, but i don't get the feeling that he's quite as desperate, pandering, and cynical as she is.

pedantic nitpick: assuming McCain represents the Ultimate Bad, if she was infinitely better than McCain, there would be no way for Obama to be better than she is. but he is better than she is.

Even more pedantic nitpick: A can be preferable to B, yet both infinitely preferable to C. For example, A = "Get $1000 for free", B = "Get bludgeoned by midgets", C = "Global thermonuclear holocaust that ends the human race in an instant".

I think it's primarily #2. I think both her and Bill have been permanently (and understandably) scarred by their mistreatment at the hands of the Republicans' scorched-earth politics of the 1990's. Their instinct is always to triangulate by running to the right and trying to discredit the left (see e.g. welfare "reform"). This is why I've been against her candidancy from the beginning: I think her instincts are all wrong for this era of waning Republican dominance. I was for Edwards initially, and Obama now, primarily for this reason. Her tactics against Obama, which seem to copy many of the ones used against her and Bill by the GOP, have made me actively dislike her, but I was against her candidancy long before that.

"Or three, her guiding political philosophy is to get elected through whatever means possible. I'll go with option three."

Me too. I used to get annoyed when Republicans called President Clinton a liberal, because he was no more so than the centrist Republicans of the time. But I'm not so ideological or partisan that I couldn't accept (what was then a) moderate Republican point of view.

I know that Bill Clinton got a raw deal from the press, even though he has only himself to blame for his troubles. But sometime this Spring, I passed the tolerance threshold for either of the Clintons.

Their brazen duplicity on both their own records and that of their opponents, and their willingness to let the right wing help them double-team Obama reveals an arrogance and total lack of scruples that leave me unwilling to vote for either again.

Ever. Not even for dog catcher.

This is why I've been against her candidancy from the beginning: I think her instincts are all wrong for this era of waning Republican dominance.

I will stipulate to Hillary's reputation as a triangulator. I was also an Edwards supporter because I felt he was the only candidate willing to push an unabashedly progressive agenda. But where did we get this notion that Obama is some kind of partisan warrior who seeks to capitalize on the new Democratic ascendance? Commentors know the statements I'm referencing: Republicans have good ideas too, we need to make sure we listen to both sides, I plan on having Republicans in my cabinet. What's left is a leap of faith which says that he's saying all those things to get elected but, in reality, he's going to pretend to listen to both sides but end up pushing the progressive agenda straight down the line.

I encounter a lot of cognitive dissonance while wandering the blogosphere. One common feature is that the people who argue that we are poised for a new era of progressive supremacy are often the same people who argue that we can't possibly persuade the electorate to accept something like mandates for health insurance.

A can be preferable to B, yet both infinitely preferable to C. For example, A = "Get $1000 for free", B = "Get bludgeoned by midgets", C = "Global thermonuclear holocaust that ends the human race in an instant".

i can think of worse things than C, because C is at least instantaneous. D = ending the human race while maximizing the suffering of everyone would be worse: suppose, as part of his government's plan to secure Earth's reserves of agony, terror and despair, the John Yoo of the evil, telepathic, Neptunian Slug People writes a memo which authorizes the long, slow torture of every living thing on Earth - and the plan is implemented.

that would be worse than C, which would mean the distance from A to C is smaller than the distance from A to D. AC can't be infinite if AD is bigger.

Steve -- Some people don't think health insurance mandates are progressive. MA's experience is not roses and ponies.

I'm not sure who *here* is saying that Obama is going to be a progressive partisan warrior, so perhaps instead of arguing with People On The Internet you could tailor your points more closely.

I also don't see what the specific problem is with declaring an intention to reach out to Republicans to work on issues where agreement can be reached (and this doesn't seem to be in the context of compromising on principles). I mean, do you want anything to get done on important issues that affect Americans, or do you just want someone who promises to be nasty to the people on the "other side"?

I'm not sure who *here* is saying that Obama is going to be a progressive partisan warrior

i don't think i've ever heard anyone say that anywhere, frankly.

on the other hand, i've talked to people (in real life, no less) who seem to think that Hillary is some kind of hard-nosed warrior who's going to kick GOP butt all over Washington. i always ask "so, what about her Senate record makes you think that ? has she ever fought the GOP tooth and nail for anything in the Senate ? how many times has she kicked down Harry Reid's door because he was going to cave to yet another GOP demand ?"

Steve -- Some people don't think health insurance mandates are progressive. MA's experience is not roses and ponies.

As long as the program contains a public option and doesn't mandate that you buy insurance from a public company, it's obviously progressive. A single-payer system, which I hope we all agree is progressive, would certainly mandate everyone's participation by taking your tax dollars whether you like it or not. Very few people in the blogosphere would be arguing that mandates are not progressive but for the fact that Clinton supports them and Obama does not; most often the argument relies upon pretending that you will be mandated to buy insurance from a private company.

Regardless, my comment was directed not at those who believe mandates are not progressive, but at those people who argue we should not pursue mandates because they are a sure-fire political loser. My basic point is that if we want an era of progressive ascendancy, we are going to have to figure out how to sell people on some ideas that are politically unpopular.

I'm not sure who *here* is saying that Obama is going to be a progressive partisan warrior, so perhaps instead of arguing with People On The Internet you could tailor your points more closely.

I was responding to a comment which argued that Hillary is a triangulator and thus Obama is better situated to capitalize on the new era of progressive dominance. From the perspective of a former Edwards supporter, I don't think either Clinton or Obama offers anything close to the ideal on this measure. One does not prove that Obama would be an effective advocate for progressive policies simply by pointing out that Hillary Clinton is evil.

I also don't see what the specific problem is with declaring an intention to reach out to Republicans to work on issues where agreement can be reached (and this doesn't seem to be in the context of compromising on principles). I mean, do you want anything to get done on important issues that affect Americans, or do you just want someone who promises to be nasty to the people on the "other side"?

The specific problem is that your statement has a question-begging feature: of course no one minds the notion of getting things done while refusing to compromise one's principles, but that's simply not going to happen on the major issues of the day. There will not be a bipartisan solution to the Iraq war, to abortion rights, to tax policy, and being able to work with Republicans on side issues like ethics reform doesn't change that. The only way to shift the ground on the BIG issues is to point out that there are major differences between Democrats and Republicans on these issues, that the Republican ideas are wrong, and that the way to fix things is by electing Democrats.

If Republicans want to join with us in order to end the war in Iraq, that's awesome, and I would hope no one would refuse their offer. But it's not going to happen. And campaigning on the theme that "Republicans of good faith" are going to join with us in order to solve the big-ticket issues obscures the fact that what we really need to do to solve those issues is to elect more and better Democrats. If we're headed for an era of progressive ascendancy, obscuring the differences between the parties is not to our benefit.

I thought we all understood by now that Hillary's proposal, unlike McCain's, includes a windfall profits tax that would make up for the shortfall in gas tax revenues.

Sorry. In my eagerness to chide Jay I forgot this feature.

i don't think i've ever heard anyone say that anywhere, frankly.

Really? You have never heard anyone argue that Obama will be the Left's Reagan?

"she's taken on the right wing and beaten them every time"

Yeah the insulting and obviously false arguements that come out of HRC's campaign really cheese me off. Take the example above, which I have heard endlessly.

When exactly has she "taken on the right wing"? As 1st lady? It's not like they could compel her to divorse clinton in the 90s. Her senate race against a nobody thrown in as a last minute replacement, in a state that hasn't gone red nationally in decades?

How did she beat them every time? Was Bill not impeached? Are we not still in Iraq, did the tax cuts not pass? Is Bush rotting away the rest of his miserable life in the Hauge? Did we ban torture? Warrantles evesdropping? Preempive war? Is she going to stop Cheney from bombing Iran this fall?

Where, exactly are all these "victories over the right wing"?

Really? You have never heard anyone argue that Obama will be the Left's Reagan?

i've heard things like that, but i always interpreted them as saying he'll be a "great communicator", an inspiration, etc.. i never took it to mean he'd be the spoonful of sugar helping the leftism go down.

Her senate race against a nobody thrown in as a last minute replacement, in a state that hasn't gone red nationally in decades?

I guess this has become the accepted anti-Hillary version of history. In the history I actually recall, Clinton ran a strong race against the outgoing two-time mayor of New York City, who ultimately chose to withdraw from the race (claiming health reasons) once it became clear that it wouldn't be the walkover he had expected. Early polls showed Clinton tied with the replacement candidate, but she ran an excellent campaign and wound up beating him handily.

As to the overall issue of Hillary's status as a bold champion of the Left, I agree that there has been more than a little mythmaking going on.

@farmgirl and bernard: Sorry, I got distracted elsewhere and didn't check. My quote was not as complete as I aimed for, the full quote was:

OBAMA: Well, I think there are a whole host of areas where Republicans in some cases may have a better idea.

WALLACE: Such as.

OBAMA: Well, on issues of regulation, I think that back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, a lot of the way we regulated industry was top down command and control. We’re going to tell businesses exactly how to do things.

And I think that the Republican party and people who thought about the margins (ph) came with the notion that you know what, if you simply set some guidelines, some rules and incentives for businesses, let them figure out how they’re going to for example reduce pollution. And a cap and trade system, for example, is a smarter way of doing it, controlling pollution, than dictating every single rule that a company has to abide by, which creates a lot of bureaucracy and red tape and oftentimes is less efficient.

@OCSteve: I can understand your position. I can even understand why people want to vote for Obama: there is a lot to be said in his favor. I am just suprised that she is perceived as the Republican-in-sheepskin and he is the ultimate democrat ;)

@felix: (With apologies to you):
As I noted on a thread a couple of days ago, Robert Reich, Bill’s Secretary of Labor and a super, came out for Obama recently; he explained on a bloggingheads segment that her unfair/unwise down-and-dirty campaigning had outraged him.

LOL, did that really suprise you? The 'why' is always her 'negative' campaigning because that is the meme the Obama campaing likes to be repeated. The timing was probabely carefully discussed.

marbel: I am just suprised that she is perceived as the Republican-in-sheepskin and he is the ultimate democrat

Hmm. “Republican-in-sheepskin”. Well, I have in the past called her Dick Cheney with Hair. ;)

I suspect that Obama is perceived as more liberal to some extent because Republicans and the right believe that, or at least are framing it that way. What you hear them shouting as a warning is that “Obama is the most liberal candidate evah!” There is (was) some of that with HRC (We’re going to take something away from you for the common good) but really I see the right as setting Obama up as the real “liberal” threat here. There really isn’t much difference between the two of them policy wise. A mandate here, a few months more or less in Iraq there…

So I think that to some extent Republicans have accepted that Obama has won the nomination. They are targeting Obama in NC and literally ignoring HRC, in fact they are ignoring HRC just about everywhere.

Remember that “liberal” is a bad word. So GOP efforts are going to paint Obama as a liberal – softening up the battlefield for McCain while Obama and HRC hash this out.

They’re framing it so well they even have Democrats believing them! Hah! You guys think this is your shot and the GOP is framing things even on your side. BwaHaHaHaHa…

Cleek:

that would be worse than C, which would mean the distance from A to C is smaller than the distance from A to D. AC can't be infinite if AD is bigger.

An interesting discussion of this can be found at: http://www.physicsforums.com/archive/index.php/t-61884.html

OT - Huzzah! For the first time in my life I'm officially registered as a Democrat.

...

...

Uhhh ... so now what?

Back OT - I have to say that "coalitions of the under-informed American electorate" is making whole bunches of sense.

Haven't people who pander to and treat the American electorate as rubes pretty much every single election for quite some time now?

"Uhhh ... so now what?"

Disagree with yourself, and go lose an election you're a shoo-in to win.

Clinton has basically revealed herself to be Mitt Romney in terms of tactics, and Joe Lieberman in terms of content. Neither of those are people I admire.

I have to laugh at all these super-delegates hiding out to see if Obama maybe proves himself to be a weak candidate or something, as if their actions didn't have some impact on that outcome. No better way to strengthen a candidate than standard at their shoulder. I guarantee* that if they stay lurking in the shadows until they're absolutely forced to declare a choice, then both candidates are going to look pretty sucky.

* If you are not happy with this prognostication after 30 days, I will refund for another prognostication of equal or even less value.

The 'working man' understands what's going on: elitist fancy-pants wonks want to control their lives by intellectual fiat -- governance based on SAT scores.

Behold: a steaming pile of cant! Not 'Kant'. 'Cant', with a 'c'.

Riddle me this.

McCain and Clinton are advocating a gas tax rollback. This will likely do little or nothing to benefit anyone, except, perhaps, oil companies. But, it does let them claim to be the Champions Of The Little Guy.

Obama states that it's a crock. By all accounts, he is correct. On this issue, he's giving us all the straight skinny, the real dog tip.

Who's doing the condescending?

I actually agree that Hillary isn´t very progressive.

Me too.

I just don´t understand why you think Obama is *more* progressive.

Personally, I don't. He's probably *less* progressive, which to me, all other things being equal, would be a negative.

I just think he brings a lower BS factor. Within the range of difference that exists between HRC and BHO policy-wise, low BS trumps the progressive metric.

For me, anyway.

Thanks -

I think Obama has gotten the "liberal" tag mostly because that's the standard tactic the GOP uses against anyone who looks like they might become the Democratic candidate. Over and over again, the GOP launches an ad campaign calling whoever gets the Dem nod "the most liberal [Senator][Governor] in the [Senate][Country]." It's no more meaningful, really, than the Weekly News cover photo of an alien shaking the US President's hand, which gets trotted out at least once every Administration.

As for why Obama is more popular among self-described liberals/progressives, even though his own policy positions aren't all that liberal/progressive, IMO that has to do with his obvious intelligence and eloquence, his refusal to act like an idiot, his refusal to treat voters as idiots, and the priority he puts on serving the general public interest rather than one small sliver of cronies. These character traits, by being completely absent in conservative circles, have by default become character traits of liberals.

Disagree with yourself, and go lose an election you're a shoo-in to win.

Heh.

An interesting discussion of this can be found at:

good to see that there isn't a consensus about the meaning of "infinity", even among people who like math :)

These character traits, by being completely absent in conservative circles, have by default become character traits of liberals.

hee.

his obvious intelligence and eloquence, his refusal to act like an idiot, his refusal to treat voters as idiots, and the priority he puts on serving the general public interest rather than one small sliver of cronies

this is pretty close to the core of the McCain mythology, too. McCain's supposed to be the maverick who puts straight-talkin common sense above everything: even his party and his own political career.

... except for his apparent lack of intelligence and definite lack of eloquence.

... and the fact that his campaign is chock-full-o lobbyists.

but, he's fooled the press, so far.

that would be worse than C, which would mean the distance from A to C is smaller than the distance from A to D. AC can't be infinite if AD is bigger.

Sure it can, depending on what your definition of "bigger" is. [And, for that matter, "infinite".] Consider this picture geometrically or, more generally, as some kind of subset relation. Just because the "ray" AC is infinite doesn't mean it's not contained in another infinite "ray" AD.

Similarly, for the case you outlined above, Clinton being infinitely better than McCain doesn't prevent Obama being better than Clinton; it just means that Obama is also infinitely better than McCain. An explicit valuation to that effect would be Clinton == 1, Obama == 2 and McCain == negative infinity.

Former DNC chair Joe Andrew cited the gas tax holiday idiocy in explaining his switch from Clinton to Obama and call for other superdelegates to follow:

Andrew said the Obama campaign never asked him to switch his support, but he decided to do so after watching Obama's handling of two issues in recent days. He said Obama took the principled stand in opposing a summer gas tax holiday that both Clinton and McCain supported, even though it would have been easier politically to back it. And he said he was impressed with Obama's handling of the controversy surrounding his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Just because the "ray" AC is infinite doesn't mean it's not contained in another infinite "ray" AD.

rays are infinite, but they have one endpoint, not two. something with two endpoints is a line segment, which cannot be infinite. so, even though i brought it up, i don't think simple linear geometry is the way to go here.

An explicit valuation to that effect would be Clinton == 1, Obama == 2 and McCain == negative infinity.

infinity + 1 = infinity

infinity is a troublesome concept.

shoulda finished my thought...

infinity + 1 = infinity, the same infinity, not a larger one. that would mean Clinton = Obama, when compared to McCain. maybe that's true in a "there is NO way i'd vote for McCain; any Dem will do" way, but if that's the case, let's get the supers to flip coins and end this thing right now - any winner will do - and stop the bloodletting.

No one said there would be math...

Re the idea that the price of gas would not fall: The argument does not fully support this.

The argument is based on the idea that supply is fixed and so price will vary until demand matches supply.

So at current prices, and current demand, we are in equilibrium.

In order for the price to revert straight back to current levels after the tax cut, demand would have to be higher. That is the claim of the argument. But we already know what demand at current prices would be: current demand. Contradiction.

The correct answer is that prices would stabilise SOMEWHERE between the current price and the current price less the tax.

So the government is giving some money to the oil refiners, and some to drivers.

Or has this been covered and my economics let me down??

Cheers

Matt

Matt -- If demand and prices are in equilibrium, then in order to MAINTAIN that equilibrium the oil companies would set the final price at whatever it needs to be. What portion of that price is then paid to the state/federal governments as taxes would not seem to be a factor in setting the price.

Bernard Yomtov: No, Jay. It's not a discount. It will not affect the price of gasoline at the pump. It will simply transfer money from the government to the oil companies.

This has been discussed and explained many ways in previous threads.

Bernard, forgive me if I don't take the information dispersed on this site with more than a grain of salt. The assertion that gas prices will rise to the same level they were before a temporary 18-cent holiday tax reduction is a voodoo economic assumption, based on a lot of maybes.

This summer, an 18-cent drop in the price of gasoline won't raise the demand for gas much, if at all. In fact, the price at the pump may drop during the gas tax holiday. Why? Because other more significant factors are working to depress gasoline demand then the price per gallon. According to Energy Information Association statistics, oil demand has already fallen around 475,000 barrels a day, and demand for petroleum is expected to remain depressed "as a result of the economic slowdown" well into 2009.

Of course, the rising gasoline prices set into motion the domino effect that led to the current recession, which has negatively impacted the economy at large, and more people out of work means less people driving to work, which means less people with money in their pockets driving to the supermarket, which means less people buying goods, which means less trucks burning gas to deliver goods, etc. etc. An 18-cent drop in gas prices isn't going to put even a tiny dent into that reduced demand scenario: unemployment rates have continued to rise over the past 3 months - and those people recently laid off aren't going to drive any further than the unemployment office for this summer vacation.

So where's the significant extra demand going to come from? Will a paltry 18-cent drop in gas prices change the summer driving plans of Americans still planning to go somewhere on vacation? Probably not: the ancillary costs for a vacation - food and lodging and entertainment (which have also risen in the past year) - are a more significant budget determinant during national economic malaise than the $42 they'd save to drive a hundred miles round trip on a vacation they may or may not go on.

And aside from the summer vacation drivers, who else is going to drive more miles this summer because of an 18-cent reduction in price at the pumps? Not the truckers who deliver to stores and factories: those routes are fixed. Same goes for Fed-Ex and the US postal trucks - the numbers of packages and letters mailed isn't a coefficient of the price of gasoline. Same for the multitudes of commuters lucky enough to still have a job, who travel to and from work - they're going to drive the same distances with or without a gas tax holiday.

But wait, there are additional factors in the equation. Gasoline inventories are up nationally, "increasing by 9 million barrels during the first quarter compared with the previous 5-year average decline of 6 million barrels. As a result, OECD commercial stocks could enter the summer almost 50 million barrels above the 5-year average… At the onset of the peak driving season (April 1), total gasoline stocks, at 224 million barrels, are estimated to be ample. That level is 23 million barrels above last year, 19 million barrels above the 5-year average, and the highest in 15 years…"

And of course there are other variables that determine the cost per gallon at the pump. Ethanol production is increasing, further reducing petroleum consumption. Inflation and the value of the dollar also determine gas demand. Or we may get 30 nights and 30 days or biblical rain, which will keep motorists off the highway for a month.

So, will a holiday gas tax reduction on the price of a gallon of gas be gobbled up by the gas companies who will raise the price per gallon because of a proportionate increase in demand for gas the extra 18-cents per gallon will generate? Probably not. But even if it does happen that way, there's still an overall benefit to the economy because more people driving on summer vacations means more money circulating through the economy at vacation destinations, which means more Americans working and getting paid and buying things they wouldn't have bought. And if we include a windfall tax on the oil industry in the bill, as Hillary suggests, it seems like a good deal all around… and any Democrat running for president who isn't in favor of it, should go sit in the corner with a dunce cap on his pointy little head.

The infinity discussion is somewhat off-topic, but I feel the need to chime in. Yes, there are different "sizes" of infinity. Using linear geometry, consider a ray. It has a definite endpoint, but continues to infinity from the point. Now consider a line running parallel to the ray. It continues to infinity in *both* directions. Logically, it is twice a long as the ray, even though both are infinite.

A better example: consider the set containing all whole numbers (0,1,2,3, etc). There are an infinite number of whole numbers. Now, consider all rational numbers between 0 and 1. That set of infinity is much greater than the number of whole numbers, as you can get an infinite number of simple reciprocals (1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/5, etc), and then you can have reciprocals with every whole number (2/3, 2/4, 2/5, 2/6, etc; 3/4, 3/5, 3/6, 3/7, etc; 4/5, 4/6, 4/7, 4/8, 4/9, etc). Obviously, some of those are equivalent, but the point still stands: there are an infinity of infinities in the set of fractions between 0 and 1. Consider further that you have that same infinity of infinities between 1 and 2, 3 and 3, etc, and you can see that *that* is even larger still.

Does that make any sense, or is it too esoteric?

Yes, there are different "sizes" of infinity.

Cantor disagreed.

to put it roughly: for every element in infinite set A, there is a corresponding item in infinite set B, even if A is contained in B. because, by definition, infinity is without end, you will never run out of points in A to match up with points in B.

or, as Wiki puts it:

    Cardinal arithmetic can be used to show not only that the number of points in a real number line is equal to the number of points in any segment of that line, but that this is equal to the number of points on a plane and, indeed, in any finite-dimensional space. These results are highly counterintuitive, because they imply that there exist proper subsets of an infinite set S that have the same size as S.

Yes, there are different "sizes" of infinity.

Cantor disagreed.

Um, no he didn't. In fact, Cantor's Theorem explicitly establishes that there are "different sizes" of infinity. The cardinality of the real numbers is equal to any of its continuous subsets (or "line segments"), but is strictly larger than the cardinality of the integers. It is not possible to define a mutual one-to-one correspondence between the integers and the real numbers. You need to follow the link on that Cantor page to "Cantor's Theorem" or "transfinite numbers."

I thought we all understood by now that Hillary's proposal, unlike McCain's, includes a windfall profits tax that would make up for the shortfall in gas tax revenues.

I thought we all understood by now that a windfall profits tax would never make it through the Senate this summer, anymore than it has the previous times it's been attempted, and hence that Senator Clinton is proposing an impossible plan out of ignorance or dishonesty. Since the latter is more likely, we're back to pandering. Unless a gas tax transfer to oil companies comes up for a vote, and Senator Clinton votes for it because it doesn't contain her "windfall profits tax." In which case, why is she taking McCain's side to drub Senator Obama for reluctance?

that would mean Clinton = Obama, when compared to McCain.

Not exactly. It means that both are infinitely preferable to McCain. It doesn't mean that we can't strictly prefer one over the other.

infinity + 1 = infinity, the same infinity, not a larger one.

Again: it depends on what you mean by infinity ;)

[To be precise: in cardinality, or using the extended real line, that's correct. If you work in a hyperreal field, or any other non-standard extension of the reals, "infinite number + 1" is bigger than "infinite number" for any infinite number. Of course "infinity" is no longer a single concept since there are continuum many infinite numbers, but whatev. Likewise, if you use ordinality, "infinite + 1" is bigger than "infinite", though again "infinite" is a descriptor and not a uniquely defined number.]

I mean, really what we're doing is showing that the word "infinite" gets used way too carelessly -- and possibly annoying the crap out of everyone else -- but hey, I only get to do this professionally for a few more months, so pedant away!

infinity is a troublesome concept.

Hey, it's kept me employed for the past five years or so.

...damn, you're right. It is a troublesome concept.

Free Anarch! Free Anarch!

(or possibly: just very inexpensive)

Um, no he didn't. In fact, Cantor's Theorem explicitly establishes that there are "different sizes" of infinity.

alas, my reading of that Wiki page was incorrect - in a couple of ways, it seems.

Blargh. Keep forgetting the captcha. Anyway, mds is quite right: Cantor proved definitively that there are different sizes of infinity or, to be more precise, that given any ordinality or cardinality, there is a strictly greater ordinality or cardinality.* He even gave an explicit construction in the latter argument; while he took the former as obvious, it wasn't until Fraenkel c. 1910 that the proof was "completed" in our understanding of the word.

* There's a refinement of his proof due to... someone? don't remember offhand, that gets rid of an annoying technical caveat not often noted, but the credit rightfully goes to Cantor for doing most of the work.

Free Anarch! Free Anarch!

(or possibly: just very inexpensive)

I prefer to think of myself as "revenue-neutral" :)

Given some of the recent comments on this thread, I'm going to re-post a comment I made on the earlier Gas Tax Hoax thread. It didn't get much action over there, and I need answers.

----------------------

I don’t know if anyone has covered this already, but something occurred to me last night while thinking about the short-term supply inelasticity of gasoline. If the tax holiday would have no effect on the price at the pump, why is it that gas prices can vary quite significantly from state to state? I live in NJ, where gas prices are the lowest or close to the lowest in the country. If I drive less than ten miles into PA the prices are a bit higher. Same goes for NY. And Connecticut – fougettabouddit. The explanation is always that NJ has low gas taxes, as well as abundant local refining.

So, is it the case that price differences that go beyond what could be explained by what I would call “supply-chain variance” – after all, the price shouldn’t go up as much as it does over the course of ten miles – are due to taxes shifting the supply curve far enough that it intersects with the demand curve beyond the point at which the supply curve becomes vertical? And, if so, wouldn’t a reduction in taxes result in a reduction in price, even if something less than a dollar-for-dollar reduction?

Otherwise, I can’t figure out why the price could jump so much because of crossing the border into PA, NY or CT.


And I'm still trying to count the Irrational Numbers....

There's a refinement of his proof due to... someone?

Are you thinking of Bernstein and Schröder, and getting rid of the ever-pesky Axiom of Choice? Drat, now I'm going to have to review some of this stuff.

And I'm still trying to count the Irrational Numbers....

Preparing yourself for this November's election results from states with paperless electronic voting, eh?

cleek: i always ask "so, what about her Senate record makes you think that ? has she ever fought the GOP tooth and nail for anything in the Senate ?

Because when you're the dentist, you can yank out teeth. And when you're not, you can't.

Being a Senator is like being a crew member on an ocean liner, you're one of many, and not in charge; but the Prez is like the captain of the ship -- you can steer it where you want (icebergs excepted).

And as far as fighting goes, what makes you think Obama can fight his way out of a paper muumuu? His senate record doesn't show much fighting spirit; nor does his Chicago legislative tenure. Even his wife pushes him around, and his ex-pastor seems to have as much regard about hurting his feelings as bin-Laden has for insulting Bush. In fact, Barak's 'toughness' factor is so low I bet he's one of the few 1/2-black guys who wouldn't have to worry about being dissed by old white ladies crossing the street at night if they saw him approaching: instead, they'd probably hail him and give him some chocolate chip cookies.

With apologies to Jim Croce:

And it's bad, bad Barak Obama
About as mean as my old Grandmomma
Badder than a nasty Yuppie
And meaner than a junkyard Puppy


cleek: "let's get the supers to flip coins and end this thing right now - any winner will do - and stop the bloodletting."

Yeah, I like the coin flip concept: like a super bowl event on national TV, in a stadium with all the delegates assembled, and laser beams flashing and music blaring, the two candidates wearing fancy robes like heavyweight boxers, their nick-names embroidered on the back (Killer Clinton; Slasher Obama), carried into the stadium on the shoulders of members of their entourage (buffed out muscle-flexers for Hillary; for Barak, members of the Rutgers University women's basketball team in politically correct solidarity) and the Star Spangled Banner sung in a gesture of party reconciliation by the Rev Wright (but with a five second delay for the introductory 'God Bless America' lyrics -- you can't be too careful with the guy).

And for the final event to determine the nominee, Nancy Pelosi flipping a gold commemorative coin, copies available for purchase on the internet, proceeds to the winner's election fund!

And Cleek, maybe we can work out the concession arrangements: us Hillary supporters get the hot dog and beer booths, and you and the Obamaites can have the sushi and latte stands. See, it's all reconcilable. But remember to smile when it comes up heads and Hillary wins (aside: yo, Bill, don't forget to slip that two-headed commemorative coin up Nancy's sleeve).

byrningman: "I have to laugh at all these super-delegates hiding out to see if Obama maybe proves himself to be a weak candidate or something, as if their actions didn't have some impact on that outcome.

Of course a lot of the uncommitted super-delegates may think Obama is proving to be a weak candidate now, and will be a weak candidate in the general election, and possibly worse: a weak president if elected. Therefore they're doing what they're supposed to be doing: waiting to see if he continues to drop in the polls (Clinton now does better than Obama against McCain in most of the national polling), and waiting to see if the American electorate's confidence in Barak continues to erode (to know him, is to doubt him) so they can garner enough support to nominate Hillary at the convention, because she's got a better shot at beating McCain, and governing the nation than he has.

I'm looking for some direction from the kitty on whether it's kosher to tell Jay to go pound sand. Or, pee up a rope. His choice.

Please advise.

Thanks -

Jay gives my pie filter a hell of a workout. but, it's still going strong, making the world a better place, one exultation to the glories of pie at a time.

Jay gives my pie filter a hell of a workout.

That sounds like a great solution, and it won't make the kitty cry.

I'll check it out.

Thanks -

Speaking of pie, there's two new fafblog posts up today.

mds: Are you thinking of Bernstein and Schröder, and getting rid of the ever-pesky Axiom of Choice? Drat, now I'm going to have to review some of this stuff.

Dang, almost! Nice one. I'm thinking of the argument that lets you conclude that you have a proper, well-ordered class of inequivalent cardinals without AC. It's what lets you conclude that there are class many ordinals in ZF, not just ZFC.

Ugh: Speaking of pie, there's two new fafblog posts up today.

Squee!

If there were a clearly defined tax-free interval, then it could have a huge effect on demand. If consumers would know for certain that the price would go down now and go up again at a defined point in the future, it would be an incentive to stockpile. On the other hand, what stops the oil companies from (inofficially) cooperating and keeping the price where it is, tax or no tax. If the consumer has no alternative that would be a high incentive to Enron them.

Hartmut, I don't think consumers can easily stockpile. Many Americans drive enough that they go through an entire tank of gas several times a month, and most people don't have the equipment to store more than a gallon or two of fuel in their homes.

hairshirthedonist

Gas prices vary by region for a variety of reasons. State and local taxes, for one. Some states require different blends of gasoline. Some places are closer to refineries, meaning lower shipping prices.

But basically it's because the market isn't totally elastic (I think that's the right word -- it doesn't react perfectly and seamlessly to demand) across the nation, or even the world. Local demand will spike and rise, and a variety of factors -- including gasoline seller's predictions of demand -- can cause prices to spike or drop.

Over here stockpiling is simply illegal without a licence but up to 200 l of gas are usually tolerated. Diesel is a bit more complicated. For tax reasons fuel oil is not allowed for cars but can be stored in relatively large quantities legally.
If that gas tax holiday is just three months then the modest stockpiling available to private citizens could become interesting.
we used to bring back the maximum amount of legal (winter) diesel from vacations in Norway while we drove a diesel car and the price was just about a third up there (both not the case anymore). That lasted for the rest of the winter at least.

200 l would equal just ten standard petrol cans (or 5 tank fillings for a standard car over here) That should fit into a normal garage or basement (I leave the question of fire hazards out here).

Hartmut,

It sounds like you're suggesting American consumers might stockpile 50 gallons of gasoline in their homes. Doing so would save them...$10 at most. The equipment you'd need to do that is going to cost more than $10, so this sounds like a wash at best and more likely it will cost you money (the number of Americans that have the equipment needed to store 50 gallons in their homes right now is...not large). This seems like a sufficiently bad idea economically that I can't see enough people doing it to actually affect the supply.

I tend to temporarily forget that in Europe a) gas costs a lot more than in the US b) relative taxes on gas are way up higher c) our cars consume about half as much gas per distance d) Europeans usually already possess several jerry cans and don't have to buy new ones.
Over here one can could be bought for far less than the tax paid on the contents. We are also used to a regular price roller coaster, so temporal stockpiling comes natural to us (but not to US ;-))

russell: "I'm looking for some direction from the kitty on whether it's kosher to tell Jay to go pound sand. Or, pee up a rope. His choice.

Please advise."

How long a rope?

To state it more precisely: In Germany the tax is currently 66 €-cent per litre (amounting to about 45%), so a tax holiday could safe the consumer more than 100€ for the legal stockpile. The petrol stations would run out of gas on the first day, if parliament tried that maneuvre.

Hartmut: graph of tax comparison and tax component comparison.

Thanks dutchmarbel. I just quoted from today's newspapers (where they gave it as a point of comparision in discussing the US debate).
Why is it actually that Diesel is (or at least was) popular for use in passenger cars in Central Europe but not in the US?

The funny thing about the US federal tax on gasoline is it's a fixed amount per gallon, not a percentage. When it was enacted, and even up until a couple of years ago, it was a substantial percentage of the price of gas. No more.

I think people tend to remember that it once was a big component of the price of gas, and that memory lingers. A gas tax hiatus won't do anything more than put a pair of disturbances on the pump price of gas. What that price does as a result of the disturbances isn't, to me, all that interesting, because it won't have much effect at all, percentage-wise.

Right now the price of gas is getting high enough that the federal excise tax on gas is decreased to near ten percent of the pump price. So, McCain (and now Clinton) want to enact a temporary suspension of the federal gas tax, which will have minimal benefit to the consumer, will reduce government revenues over a short period of time, and will (as I mentioned) throw a pair of minor transients into the market, all to deliver cost savings to the consumer that's somewhere between zero and ten-twelve percent.

I don't think it's worth doing, really.

Thanks for the reply, Morat20. I've been mulling this one over, and I think I was oversimplifying a bit. It's not like there's a single supply curve that applies everywhere. There's probably an aggregate supply curve, but that's not quite the same thing. Same goes for demand, for that matter. And confounding all of it, at least for me, is the confusion between moves along the curves and the shifting of the curves. I'm going to take a break and think about infinity for a while. Or maybe infinity plus one.

Why is it actually that Diesel is (or at least was) popular for use in passenger cars in Central Europe but not in the US?

Don't know about the US, but in the Netherlands it was a cost issue. Heavier cars, thus more road tax and insurance costs, but more efficient and cheaper per litre (and longer lasting engines). So if you drove a lot you were better off with diesel (there were break-even point calculations involved).

I read in the papers this morning that diesel cars are now roughly on par numerically in Germany combined with complaints that the price of diesel fuel is kept artificailly high. The same article stated that in the Far East diesel is becomeing quite popular and that there is a certain tendency towards that in the US too. But there must be something historical about the different predilections (apart from the notoriously crappy design of diesel engines in the US that is deplored in so many books about WW2).

I think the US still has the 'bad image' of diesel, still thinks they are not as nice, clean, effective etc. 20 years ago diesel cars would accelerate less well for instance.

Though I don't know wether the fact that most Americans drive automatics might have something to do with it; I've never driven an automatic on diesel. And with stick-shift there used to be a significant difference (I remember never chosing a diesel based lease car ;) ) - but that is no longer true.

Our car will last maybe two more years, but than we will replace it so I'm reading up on current cars. I'd like to choose a more environmentally friendly car - but hybrid is impossible since I'll have to be able to hang things (caravan, carts, etc.) behind the car. Diesel often is better in the CO2 area, but will produce more 'soot', even with the modern filters. LPG is friendliest, but will take up more luggage room and with three growing boys that is an important factor too. And if you really want to make a better choice you have to dig into where the cars are produced, with which materials and by which kind of employees. I might need the full two years to come to a decision ;)

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