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Archive for November, 2013

Why China Isn’t Ready for Electric Vehicles

November 12th, 2013

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By 2020, auto analysts expect more than 2 million electric vehicles to be sold every year. That’s a huge leap from the 113,000 electric vehicles that were sold in 2012. It’s also why China has set its sights on trying to win this “new energy vehicle” sector by 2020.

China’s track record is formidable. It launched successful bids to compete in wind turbines, solar panels and personal electronics. However, there are a number of structural problems in how the government and economy work that make it unlikely that a Chinese competitor to Tesla, the Chevy Volt or even the Toyota Prius will emerge any time soon.

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What Democrats have going for them? Republicans

November 12th, 2013

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Democrats had one thing going for them in the election this week: Republicans. That kept the President Barack Obama’s party from faring much worse.

Dissatisfaction with the economy is still very high. In the network exit polls, more than 80 percent of Virginia and New Jersey voters said they were worried about the nation’s economy over the next year.

The economy was the top issue in both states. New Jersey voters concerned about the economy voted 2 to 1 for Republican Governor Chris Christie — even though he was the incumbent. It isn’t his economy. It’s Obama’s economy. That’s the new rule in American politics: All politics is national.

In Virginia, however, the poor economy didn’t do the Republican candidate much good. Virginia voters who cited the economy as their top concern split their vote, 49 percent for Republican Ken Cuccinelli and 43 percent for Democrat Terry McAuliffe.

The Republican should have carried Virginia. Obama’s job rating among Virginia voters was down 6 points since 2012. Nonetheless, McAuliffe built solid majorities in the same New America constituencies that had delivered the state for Obama last year: women, racial minorities, educated professionals and young voters. Particularly unmarried women, whom Cuccinelli offended with his attacks on abortion, divorce and contraception. The Republican vote among unmarried women in Virginia dropped from 34 percent for Mitt Romney in 2012 to 25 percent for Cuccinelli in 2013.

Why did Cuccinelli lose Virginia? Because he was linked to the Tea Party. Forty-two percent of Virginia voters said they opposed the Tea Party. Only 9 percent of them voted for Cuccinelli. Among New Jersey voters, opinion of the Tea Party was only slightly more negative (45 percent opposed). The difference was, Christie got 38 percent of the anti-Tea Party vote in New Jersey. Christie is a Republican — but he isn’t part of the Tea Party movement.

Christie cut sharply into the Obama coalition in New Jersey. Women in New Jersey voted 62 percent for Democrat Obama in 2012. They voted 57 percent for Republican Christie in 2013. Christie carried the Latino vote in New Jersey and got 21 percent of the African-American vote. One-third of New Jersey Democrats voted for Christie. What percentage of Virginia Democrats voted for Cuccinelli? Two.

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Dear John (Boehner)

November 12th, 2013

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Dear Speaker Boehner,

I know you’re having a really rough fall, and you may be sitting in your office right now, wistfully wishing the holiday recess would arrive. But the Senate has just passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill that would protect LGBT Americans from being fired because of who they are. And you can bring ENDA up for a vote without facing shutdown-style fallout — instead just skipping straight to the standing ovation. Here’s why:

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The Election Results No One is Talking About

November 12th, 2013

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Which is the most important result of Tuesday’s election?

A. A Republican governor won a landslide election in a blue state.

B. A Democrat was elected governor in a purple state during intense criticism of a new federal government program.

C. An outspoken liberal Democrat was elected mayor in a big city — where opposition parties had been in power for 20 years.

D. An education funding amendment lost in a mountain state.

If you said D, you’re correct.

On Tuesday, Amendment 66 was defeated in Colorado, with preliminary results suggesting a drubbing of two-to-one opposed. It would have improved education funding with slight tax increases and changed Colorado’s flat tax to a two-tiered, progressive structure.

The goal was a major overhaul of education finance, with reduced disparities at the local level and increased spending — including funding for early childhood programs, rural education and at-risk youth programs.

Millions of dollars poured into the state to support the amendment. High-profile backing came from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Melinda Gates. But the more than $10 million spent in support of the amendment wasn’t enough to convince skeptical voters.

The defeat of Amendment 66 should worry Democrats. This is about as close as you can get to the main thrust of the Democratic Party’s progressive agenda: raise taxes on wealthier people to fund investments in the future.

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Virginia & New Jersey: Democratic Warning Flags & Republican Opportunities

November 6th, 2013

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The narrative of 2013 thus far has been the victory of pragmatism over dogmatic adherence to ideology, moderation and bipartisan compromise over extreme partisanship. Those on the Left may be tempted to view their victory in Virginia as a demographic inevitability, running up numbers with voters who are all but guaranteed to be Democrats for life. But buried within the polling are warning signs for Democrats and opportunities for Republicans.

Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe won the 18-29 year-old vote by a bare margin of 45% to 40%. A surprising 15% voted for Robert Sarvis, which marked the highest level of support the libertarian candidate received from any age group. By contrast, President Obama won 60% of younger voters in 2008 and 2012 in Virginia. But last night’s election proves that President Obama’s large margins of victory among younger voters cannot be assumed to simply transfer to other Democratic candidates. McAuliffe may have secured a plurality of the youth vote, but he was down 15 points from President Obama’s margin.

Indeed, buried in the exit polls, Ken Cuccinelli actually won more voters ages 18-24 than McAuliffe, by 45% to 39%.* [McAuliffe did better among 25-29 year olds, winning them 50% to Cuccinelli's 35%.] Younger Millennials, those who likely have scant memories of a pre-September 11 America and entered adulthood during a recession, appear more open to Republican and libertarian candidates than their slight elders. While Republicans’–and Cuccinelli’s, in particular–views on gay equality are generally highlighted as a symbol of youth alienation from socially conservative Republican candidates, he still garnered 45% support from the youngest voters last night. That means Democrats cannot simply assume that a few social issues will necessarily drive the youth vote from the GOP and into their ranks by overwhelming margins.

In election eve polling among Hispanics and Asians, McAuliffe won 66% of the Hispanic vote and 63% of the Asian vote. However, the polls demonstrate that those voters are not die-hard partisans–58% of Hispanics and 68% of Asians have voted Republican in the past, and only 47% of Hispanics and 36% of Asians call themselves Democrats. Immigration emerges as a key issue for these groups. McAuliffe’s support for a Virginia DREAM Act, coupled with Cuccinelli’s opposition to comprehensive immigration reform and harsh language towards immigrants, not only propelled these communities to support the Democrat but also spilled over to tarnish the Republican Party brand–70% or more of Hispanics and about 60% of Asians reported that Cuccinelli’s statements about immigrants made them less favorable to the Republican Party.

But all of that could be remedied. Views of the GOP would improve markedly if the House held a vote and passed comprehensive immigration reform. Nearly 70% of Hispanics and 47% of Asians would view Republicans in Congress less favorably if there is no vote while about 40% of each group would view Republicans in Congress more favorably if a vote was scheduled. Republicans have a genuine opportunity here. In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie out-right won the Hispanic vote. In Virginia and elsewhere, winning over just a few Hispanic or Asian voters could have propelled Republicans to victory.

Recently, we noted that despite President Obama’s impressive wins in 2008 and 2012, Millennial, Hispanic, and Asian voters were neither reliable partisans nor liberal ideologues. If anything, both gubernatorial races in 2013 confirmed that perspective.

*The sample size for the 18-29 year old vote in the exit polls is about 308, which would result in a margin-of-error around +/-5.5.

 

The Costs Are Crippling

November 6th, 2013

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The bureaucracies that surround top commanders have grown drastically. Since the war in Afghanistan began in 2001, military and civilian positions at the combatant commands that some of the military’s approximately three dozen four-star officers oversee has increased by about 50 percent, according to the Government Accountability Office. The number of support personnel that top generals and admirals command has grown so much that the ratio of civilian personnel to troops is higher than it has ever been.

War-fighters looking to make quick decisions on the battlefield are buried beneath this colossal bureaucracy.

“In some cases the gap between me and an action officer may be as high as 30 layers,” bemoaned the former secretary of defense, Robert Gates. The result, according to Gates, is “a bureaucracy which has the fine motor skills of a dinosaur.”

In addition to stymieing military effectiveness, the cost of the top-heavy military is immense. Just the basic pay and compensation of a four-star officer costs taxpayers more than $225,000 a year. When they retire, each of these generals and admirals can cost taxpayers over a million dollars a year. The taxpayer-financed perks these commanders enjoy is immense and, as a Third Way report documents, includes: mansions, private jets, chefs, gardeners, drivers, personal assistants and even string quartets for dinner parties.

But the greatest costs are from the expansive bureaucracies that have grown beneath these top commanders. According to the G.A.O., the cost to taxpayers of the combatant commands many of these generals and admirals sit atop more than doubled from 2007 to 2012 — topping $1 billion.

Despite efforts to curtail this problem, the trend toward a more top-heavy military has continued. This threatens the effectiveness of the brave men and women who fight to defend our nation, and wastes money the Pentagon needs to combat 21st century threats. Curtailing the bloated Pentagon bureaucracy isn’t simply a matter of promoting efficiency or eliminating waste, it’s a national security priority. Failure to act now will result in a military that’s more expensive, less effective and less capable of defending U.S. interests.

This piece was orignially published via The New York Times.