Sunday, April 29, 2012

Obama Extends His Lead, Gingrich to Formally Drop Out, On Behalf of the 1%

Obama Extends His Lead
In my poll tracking, we have 4 new national polls and 5 state level polls this week and they show a distinct trend in the second week of the general election campaign - the Obama campaign is gaining steam.  Now, let's not overstate this case - this is week 2 of what will be a 29 week campaign, so we are sure to see lots of ups and downs.

But in the scheme of a week that saw disappointing economic growth (2.2% GDP growth in Q1 versus an expectation of 2.5% growth), disappointing unemployment claims (388,000 new claims versus an expectation of 365,000) and no real positive news for the President, his gaining ground against Romney is certainly a good thing.

Here are our latest changes:
National Poll Average of Averages: Obama +2.9% (up 2.0% from last week)
State Changes:

Louisiana - moves from Safe Romney to Strong Romney
West Virginia - moves from Safe Romney to Strong Romney
South Carolina - moves from Strong Romney to Likely Romney
South Dakota - moves from Strong Romney to Likely Romney
Arizona - moves from Strong Romney to Likely Romney
Florida - flips from Lean Romney to Lean Obama
Michigan - moves from Likely Obama to Strong Obama
Wisconsin - moves from Likely Obama to Strong Obama
Rhode Island - moves from Strong Obama to Safe Obama
Delaware - moves from Strong Obama to Safe Obama
Maryland - moves from Strong Obama to Safe Obama

Electoral Count: Obama 331, Romney 207 (Obama +28 versus last week)

Gingrich to (Finally) Drop Out
Newt Gingrich is set to formally drop out of the Presidential race this Tuesday, leaving Mitt Romney and Ron Paul as the only official candidate for the Republican nomination.  Gingrich's status as a serious candidate for the Republican nomination has been gone for quite some time now.  Since winning an upset victory in South Carolina, his only victory was in his home state of Georgia and Gingrich came in third in states like Mississippi, where a serious GOP Southern candidate should win.

We've all sort of moved on to the general election, so Gingrich's departure will be to very little fanfare.

In the most technical sense, Romney is still yet to clinch the nomination.  My current delegate count puts his total at 865 delegates out of 1,144 needed to clinch the nomination.  But with only Ron Paul to deal with, Romney should make short work of gaining the remaining 279 he needs.  132 delegates are allocated in the three races on May 8th, 63 on May 15th, 81 on May 22nd, 155 in the Texas Primary on May 29th, 299 on June 5th and 40 in the closing Utah primary on June 26th.

Assuming Romney gets at least 65% of the delegates from here on, he should clinch by May 29th.

 Game on to the general.

In Defense of the 1%
I am not a member of the 1%, as defined by the (now dwindling) Occupy Wall Street protesters.  I have been successful enough in life that my household income is in the top 5% of all households, but not in the top 1%.  I hope to join the 1% as soon as possible, however.

The 1% have been much maligned by the left as of late.  They profit at the expense of the working class.  They don't pay their fair share of taxes.  They looted our economy and gave themselves golden parachutes.

There are certainly members of the 1% for whom there can be no defense.  Bernie Madoff is a criminal.  The actions of the leaders of financial institutions to take massive risks on high-risk loans that ultimately led both to the housing bubble and the financial collapse are incompetent and best and criminal at worst.  Hedge fund managers being taxed at a lower rate than working Americans is inexplicably bad policy.

But there are plenty of things that the 99% does that are as bad or worse.  Medicaid fraud is rampant.  So is Social Security Disability fraud.  There are scores of people taking public handouts who aren't even attempting to find work or go to school.  Alexandra Pelosi's documentary video (featured on Bill Maher's show Real Time) around a New York City welfare office that showed able-bodied people who had decided they didn't want to work asking for a hand-out turned my stomache.

In 2011, I paid a total federal income tax rate of 20.0%.  I additionally paid 4.4% of my income to New Jersey state income tax.  Payroll taxes (Social Security, Medicare and New Jersey unemployment taxes) added another 3.2%.  Property taxes on my home (a fairly modest one in the Philadelphia suburbs) amounted to another 3.1% of my income.

So, even excluding state sales taxes, gas taxes, tag fees, etc., my total tax bill amounted to 30.7% of my income.

47% of the country pays no income tax.

Should my taxes be higher?

You could argue that they should - I could certainly live off less than 69.3% of my income.

But the truth of the matter is that raising my taxes won't solve our current economic situation.  I'm in favor of allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for those making over $250K, as President Obama has advocated.  But those cuts are a mere 10% of the cost of the Bush Tax cuts.  The other 90%?  The reductions in middle class taxes and the increased deductions that dropped many lower income tax payers from the roles.

You may think it's wise or unwise to tax the rich more.  But to be intellectually honest, it really doesn't matter.  If you are going to raise a meaningful amount of revenue for the government, you are going to have to tackle higher middle class taxes.

I don't deny that I have been lucky in life - good genes, being raised in a strong household, having access to an excellent public school system and the right opportunities have aided me in my path to being in the top 5%.  There is no doubt that a kid in rural Mississippi or Compton will not in general start life with the same advantages that I did.  That's why I don't mind paying a little more to try to help even the playing field.

But don't be mad at me for my success...I got there through the combination of luck (above), hard work and discipline.  I don't make my money firing people or raiding old ladies bank accounts (although firing people, on occasion, is a part of most management jobs.)  I do an honest days work and think that shareholders in my company get a good deal at the amount I'm paid.

I don't mind contributing, but I think my story, and most of the 1%ers too, are stories to be studied in how to succeed in America, not stories to be lambasted as greedy and arrogant.

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