Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Tuesday, October 25th, 2016.


Please, Make It Stop …

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elections, Hillary Clinton

Just encountered a woman on Facebook who was screaming that Hillary Clinton plans to privatize Social Security.

This particular panic came about because of a headline on an opinion piece in Forbes titled “Clinton Might Be Moving Toward Social Security Privatization” that offered absolutely no evidence of anyone on the Clinton team thinking about SS privatization. Do read it; it’s short. Basically, the author says that Social Security is a mess, and how else will Clinton save it but privatization? Seriously; that’s the argument. I am not making this up.

There’s a lot of regressive stuff I fear Clinton might pull, but that is not one of them. Remember all the crazy we went through with Dubya’s privatization plan more than a decade ago? The more Bush talked about his plan to “reform” Social Security, the less popular the idea got. And that was before the 2008 crash.

Having invested so much political capital in this issue, President Bush embarked on the first of what proved to be a long series of tours crammed with events at which he pitched his plan to the people. It soon became apparent that it would be a tough sell. Within weeks, observers noticed that the more the President talked about Social Security, the more support for his plan declined. According to the Gallup organization, public disapproval of President Bush’s handling of Social Security rose by 16 points from 48 to 64 percent–between his State of the Union address and June.

By early summer the initiative was on life support, with congressional Democrats uniformly opposed and Republicans in disarray.After Hurricane Katrina inundated what remained of the President’s support, congressional leaders quietly pulled the plug. By October, even the President had to acknowledge that his effort had failed.

Since then, Democrats have been running on promises to protect Social Security from the evil machinations of privatizing Republicans. Even Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Bush’s plan would put “Americans at risk of losing their retirement savings with the ups and downs of Wall Street.” The 2016 Democratic Party platform plainly states “We will fight every effort to cut, privatize, or weaken Social Security, including attempts to raise the retirement age, diminish benefits by cutting cost-of-living adjustments, or reducing earned benefits.”

In short, this is an issue in which the Dems have absolutely no wiggle room. And I don’t think they’re so stupid they don’t know that. If on the remote chance Clinton were to offer a Bush-style plan as part of some “grand bargain” with a Republican Congress, the political fallout on the entire Democratic Party would be radioactive.

So, while I distrust Clinton in many areas of policy, privatizing Social Security is very low on my list of Ways Hillary Might Sell Us Out.

And the whole point of that Forbes article was planting that headline in the magazine, so that soft-headed progressives and Greenies would link to it and get hysterical, possibly costing Clinton some votes. It was bait.

Yesterday I linked to an article by Josh Marshall that explains what “oversampling” means to a pollster.

Campaigns do extensive, very high quality polling to understand the state of the race and devise strategies for winning. These are not public polls. So they can’t affect media polls and they can’t have anything to do with voter suppression.

Now you may be asking, why would the Democrats skew their own internal polls? Well, they’re not.

The biggest thing here is what the word ‘oversampling’ means. Both public and private pollsters will often over-sample a particular demographic group to get statistically significant data on that group. So let’s stay you have a likely voter poll with 800 respondents. The number of African-Americans in that sample is maybe going to be 100 people, maybe less. 800 people is a decent sample for statistical significance. 100 is not. So if you’re trying to draw conclusions about African-American voters, levels of approval, degree of opposition or support of a candidate, demographic breakdowns, etc. you need to get an ‘over-sample’ to get solid numbers.

Whether it’s public or private pollsters, the ‘over-sample’ is never included in the ‘topline’ number. So if you get 4 times the number of African-American voters as you got in a regular sample, those numbers don’t all go into the mix for the total poll. They’re segmented out. The whole thing basically amounts to zooming in on one group to find out more about them. To do so, to zoom in, you need to ‘over-sample’ their group as what amounts to a break-out portion of the poll.

In other words, campaigns and parties do not “oversample” demographic groups in order to generate fake poll numbers. That hasn’t stopped half the Intertubes from reposting headlines like WIKILEAKS BOMBSHELL EXPOSES Clinton Campaign and Mainstream Media “RIGGED POLLING”. And the people posting this that I’ve seen are lefties. The links are followed by comments such as “Money talks and if they don’t listen, thee is always the threat of imminent ‘suicide’ to keep witnesses silent.”

I mean, I’m as weary of knee-jerk rah-rah yay for our side as anybody. But this perpetual screaming hysteria is absolutely exhausting. I wish there were nothing on the Web but cats and babies.

In other news — the text of the talk I gave Sunday is posted here.

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