Department of Education Money Spent on Bush Ads

I guess the $75M in public funds wasn't enough for the Bush administration: The Bush administration has promoted its education law with a video that comes across as a news story but fails to make clear the reporter involved was paid with taxpayer money.

The government used a similar approach this year in promoting the new Medicare law and drew a rebuke from the investigative arm of Congress, which found the videos amounted to propaganda in violation of federal law.

The Education Department also has paid for rankings of newspaper coverage of the No Child Left Behind law, a centerpiece of the president's domestic agenda. Points are awarded for stories that say President Bush and the Republican Party are strong on education, among other factors.

The news ratings also rank individual reporters on how they cover the law, based on the points system set up by Ketchum, a public relations firm hired by the government.

The video and documents emerged through a Freedom of Information Act request by People for the American Way, a liberal group that contends the department is spending public money on a political agenda. The group sought details on a $700,000 contract Ketchum received in 2003 from the Education Department.

While underfunding its own education initiatives by more than $7B, the Bush administration instead illegally spends taxpayer money designated for education on campaign propaganda.

Pooling Our Collective Ignorance Does Not Yield Wisdom

On his risk management blog, back in late July Jim Garvin wrote the following about political futures markets:[I]f markets are informationally efficient, it follows that market prices represent unbiased forecasts concerning future events. Technically, this means that on average, the market's estimate of the average value of the event in question is likely to be quite accurate. Consequently, I believe that political "futures" markets are more reliable indicators of the odds of a Bush or Kerry win than surveys conducted by the various media companies. Personally, I feel this level of confidence in unfettered economic markets has reached the level of outbreak in America and Britain previously only witnessed in apocalyptic zombie movies such as Shaun of the Dead (big thumbs up on that film, by the way). On a more analytic level, I find the basic assumption that Garvin uses to support the accuracy of such markets difficult to accept. Simply put, why would anyone believe that the information investors in political futures markets possess concerning the outcome of an election is any better, more efficient, or even any different, from the polling and other horserace information released by large media companies?

On the morning of January 19, 2004, Howard Dean was trading at around 51 cents on the Iowa Electronic Markets, while John Kerry was trading at around 13 cents. Clearly, the market, like many people in the media, still thought that Howard Dean was going to win the Iowa caucus. However, the market was clearly wrong. In the end, Kerry more than doubled Dean's delegate percentage from the precinct caucus. I suppose the collective brilliance of the traders began to shine, however, when Kerry's numbers spiked as the returns began to come in.

The lack of good information is not the only problem with political futures markets. Further damaging their ability to predict is that they have almost no money invexted in them at all. As Barry Ritholtz writes at BOP News (emphasis mine):

Lets compare these exchanges with the U.S. Capital markets, which are, in a word, massive. Total market capitalization for equities are ~$13 trillion dollars; for Federal debt (Bonds and notes) its about $4 trillion; while corporate bonds total in excess of $5 trillion.

The total dollar amount invested is the political futures? An absolute pittance.

Let's start with Intrade.com. They state they are the largest political futures exchange in the world. Their biggest contract - The George W. Bush Futures -- has about two million dollars invested. Over the past year, these futures have traded a grand total of six million dollars. The Iowa Political Futures market is downright tiny in comparison. Over the summer, they had less than $20,000 invested in their "winner take all" exchange.

$20,000? All the Iowa Electronic Futures Market represents is the collective opinion of what literally a handful of investors think is going to happen in the election. This is a sample size that even Gallup would recognize as worthless.

So, not only do political futures markets not predict the outcome of elections, they also do even serve as an accurate reflection of majority opinion at any given time. The only opinions they do reflect are those of a miniscule number of whackos, about whom we know nothing, that have the money to invest in such a bizarre market. I thought I would never write this, but I actually think Gallup is a more accurate predictor of elections than the political futures markets.

Americans Don't Like Class Warfare

How could they? Most Americans are getting their butts kicked: At the nation's 146 most selective colleges, only 3% of students come from the lowest socioeconomic quarter, it says; 74% come from the top quarter.

And the gap has widened: Wealthy kids are increasingly displacing middle-income students, according to a study of selective institutions by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA.

This also means that only 23% are coming from the middle-two quarters. This is something US News and World Report won't tell you in their college rankings.

All of this makes me wonder how much has really changed since we abolished the draft. Our soldiers in Iraq are primarily coming from those income groups who do not go to college as often as others. While the military aims its recruitment at lower income and minority youth, the wealthy receive a deferment of prosperity and opportunity. This extreme inequality is also a crisis of national talent. There is simply no way that as a nation we can go on underutilizing the abilities of three quarters of our national population and continue to make significant progress as a nation.

DNC outpaces RNC in July Fundraising

Certainly the convention played a role in this, but through improved communication with the electorate and a heavily expanded on the ground and internet presence, the DNC was able to out fundraise the RNC in July:

July Fundraising Totals
DNC $27,619,145.61
RNC $25,910,760.10

In addition to online efforts, the DNC has invested $5M in an open air and door-or-door canvassing operation called Grassroots Campaigns (they really need to work on the website). This effort has already paid a significant return, as it has raised over $12M this year, and around $5M in July alone. If, like me, you live in an urban, heavily Democratic area of the country, you have probably seen some of the more than one thousand people working on this campaign. Typically, they tend to be young idealistic types in either red or blue DNC tee shirts standing on the street asking if you would like to help elect John Kerry / defeat George Bush. If you ever pass one of these people, stop and talk with them, because they are doing difficult and important work. And hey, if you need a job, they are still hiring.

Overall, even though we have turned a corner, Republican Party Committees still hold a significant fundraising advantage over Democratic Party Committees: $261M to $421M. However, Democratic and progressive leaning 527's have been able to reduce that deficit by around 75%. It is thrilling to see the DNC and other progressive groups engaging in numerous, simultaneous, vast operations in order to contact as many people as possible, register as many people as possible, have as many contacts with every potential voter as possible, and bring as many people as possible into the process in a wide variety of ways.

When all is said and done, Republicans will still probably slightly out fundraise Democrats in this election cycle. However, that we have even managed to come close strikes a major blow against perhaps the most important pillar of Republican electoral strength. Combine this with the wave of new activists who have been brought into the process by efforts of the DNC, 527s, netroots and others, and I for one am very optimistic about the political future of my country.

An opening big to drive a Presidential delivery truck through

This should go alot further than just Kerry bashing Bush in a California speech, imagine the ad playout, Kerry slams Bush over national sales tax idea:I'm not exactly sure how big the national sales tax is going to have to be, but it's kind of an interesting idea that we ought to explore seriously," Bush said Tuesday at a Florida campaign event, answering a question from the audience.... , the White House's shifting positions gave the Democrat an opening to ridicule Bush on two points the Republican campaign regards as strengths: Bush's tax-cutting record and his reputation for straight talk.
So, Bush calls the idea of raising our taxes by over 400% an interesting idea? No, it's way further, what Bush said was, I'm not exactly sure how big the national sales tax is going to have to be. Bush is saying that a national sales tax will occur, and that it's just a matter of how big the tax increase will be.

What more could Kerry possibly want for sparking a debate against Bush on the economy? The increased tax isn't just upon lower-income families, taxes would rise for the middle class, small business too, and basically, everyone but the very wealthy, or my base, as Bush likes to call the elite.  

Kerry said, a national sales tax would have to be "at least a 26% add-on" to the state and local sales taxes Americans now pay. These taxes average 6.2%. This whole Swift boat thing is a matter that most swing voters couldn't give a spit about; but start talking to them about their taxes being raised 400% by Bush, that'll get some attention.

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