Tags: CrossroadsGPS

Children of the Corn


Everybody loves the idea of the self-sufficient farmer — hardy, independent, working his own land to produce what he needs on his own terms. It is a romantic vision, unless you have the experience of having lived that way: In the modern parlance, we call that economic model “subsistence agriculture,” and it is associated with places like Afghanistan and Uganda, a neolithic standard of living, and intervals of famine.

But the nice thing about having a primitive economy is that the economics gets real simple real quick. Let’s say you live in Grainville, population 100, a village of self-sufficient corn farmers who among them produce 1,000 bushels of corn every year. Corn farming is their only form of organized economic activity — otherwise, they are reduced to foraging in the countryside in old-fashioned hunter-gatherer style. If they lack trade or economic diversification, we know precisely how much the people of Cornville can consume in any given year: exactly what they produce, i.e., 1,000 bushels of corn. In order to make the math easy, let’s say that Grainville’s corn consumption follows the same pattern every year: 800 bushels eaten, 200 bushels used as seed for the next year’s crop, producing the same 1,000 bushels for the next season. Over and over.

The same pattern holds true at Corntown, the nearly identical village down the road. They put 800 bushels in the granary and 200 bushels in the seed silo. On and on it goes, for generations, until one year somebody in Corntown gets a big idea: 1,000 bushels of corn minus the 200 needed for seed leaves eight bushels per person per year, which is by no means a lavish standard of living, but they know from bad crop years that they can, if absolutely necessary, live on a little less — 7.5 bushels per person per year is enough to get by, if only barely. So why not put 750 bushels in the granary and 250 in the seed silo? It would be a very lean year, but with a little luck, and perhaps a milder winter, they would have an extra 50 bushels of seed corn the next planting season.

People grumble when stomachs rumble. But when the next harvest comes around, Corntown is, if not exactly fat and happy, better off: Instead of 1,000 bushels of corn, they have 1,250—a better harvest than anybody can remember having seen. But this bumper crop brings with it a heated debate among the yeomen of the Corntown Growers’ Cooperative. Yeoman Smith says that they should declare a festival year, set aside the usual 200 bushels for seed, and distribute the remaining 1,050, giving everybody 10.5 bushels instead of the usual eight. Yeoman Jones says that they should return to their usual practice of putting 800 bushels in the granary and set aside the remaining 450 for seed, producing an even bigger crop next time around. And Yeoman Flint proposes an even more radical idea: Tough out one more year of putting only 750 bushels in the granary and set aside 500 bushels for seed. Nobody much likes Yeoman Flint’s proposal: The past year was pretty tough, and another year like it might lead to serious discontent in Corntown. But Yeoman Flint has a compelling argument: If the winter is especially tough or there is another unforeseen need, that corn sitting in the seed silo is still there for them — they could always eat some of the extra seed if things proved tough, dipping into their corn savings.

There are three possible scenarios for the next harvest:

1.     Under the Smith model, the harvest is 1,000 bushels, back to square one, with the one fat year a fading memory.

2.     Under the Jones model, the next harvest is an astounding 2,250 bushels — more than twice what the people of Corntown are used to having.

3.     Under the Flint model, the next harvest is 2,500 bushels, a truly mind-boggling harvest for Corntown.

The people of Corntown are mostly moderates. They know a good thing when they see it, but they do not want to go overboard, so the Jones model is the most popular — after all, when you are used to having only 1,000 bushels a year, the difference between 2,250 and 2,500 does not seem that vast. But the Flintists turn out to be hardcore, uncompromising ideologues, and they are not prepared to give way, so 20 of them decide to take their share of the year’s crop — 250 bushels — and go their own way, forming their own cooperative down the road a bit.

So, now we have three corn-farming villages: Grainville follows the Smith plan, planting 200, harvesting 1,000, eating 800 (or eight per person per year), planting 200, etc. Corntown now follows the Jones plan, modified for their new, smaller population: They set aside 640 bushels to eat (eight bushels for each of their 80 remaining residents) and plant the balance, which comes to 360 bushels. And the tiny new village of Flintstown, population 20, sets aside 150 bushels to eat (7.5 bushels per person) and plants its remaining 100.

The next year, then, the harvest looks like this:

1.     Grainville: 10 bushels/person

2.     Corntown: 22.5 bushels/person

3.     Flintstown: 25 bushels/person

People start to think of Grainville as kind of déclassé: With a per capita GVP (Gross Village Product) of only ten bushels, it is by far the poorest of the three villages. But almost nobody from Corntown is looking to move to Flintstown, either: Even though its GVP is slightly higher, life is kind of hard there, and its current standard of living — as measured by how much corn you get to eat — is slightly lower. The people of Corntown congratulate themselves on their moderation. The people of Flintstown come to think of the people of Corntown as high-living libertines. Which brings us to:

Year Two Per Capita GVP

Grainville: 10B (0.00 growth rate)

Corntown: 72.5B (322 percent growth rate)

Flintstown: 87.5B (350 percent growth rate)

Discovering the power of investment — forgoing a little consumption now in order to produce more in the future — was a powerful thing, indeed. Both corn-investing villages now are producing far more seed corn than corn to eat. But of course that kind of spectacular growth cannot last forever. There’s only so much land and water, only so many laborers — and only so much corn, cornmeal mush, hoecakes, and unsalted popcorn you can stomach. (Neither village has made contact with the far-flung communities of Pigtown, Cowtown, Avocadoville, or Tomatoburg yet.) And even with its higher level of investment, Flintstown’s growth rate is not going to be 8 percent higher than Corntown’s forever. But it will be higher.

After the initial boom, Corntown levels out at 6 percent growth, and thrifty Flintstown at 7.5 percent in Year Three and going forward. In the coming years, that does not make an earth-shattering difference in their per capita GVPs. In Year Eight, Corntown’s per capita GVP is 97B, while Flintstown’s is 126B. And Flintstown gets a little less flinty: Corn consumption goes up a little bit, meaning that the amount of corn replanted goes down proportionally, and so the difference in their growth rates is diminished, too: Corntown continues growing at 6 percent, and Flintstown, still relatively tight with a bushel, grows at 6.5 percent. That half of a percentage point does not seem like much to brag about — until you check in with the great-grandkids. In Year 100, Corntown’s per capita GVP is 19,481B — but Flintstown’s is a whopping 38,832B, meaning that Yeoman Flint’s great-grandkids are on average twice as wealthy as Yeoman Jones’s. (Grainville, of course, disappeared after the first serious drought. And since Flintstown hasn’t developed a market for domestic laborers, Grainvillians perish from the earth, and nothing is left of them but sad stories.)

And when the corn-investing villages finally get around to establishing trade ties with Pigtown and inventing the tamale, the merchants prefer trading with Flintstown — sure, Corntown is a bigger market, but Flintstown is twice as wealthy, and they can afford to pay more for pork, avocados, beef, cotton — and for farming tools that make their corn operations more efficient, helping them to sustain their growth edge. In Year 200, Flintstown still has only a quarter the population of Corntown, but its economy is equal to 80 percent of that of its neighbor, and its citizens are on average three times wealthier. In another 50 years, Flintstown’s total GVP will be greater than Corntown’s, and its per capita GVP will be four times as much — which is to say, the difference between Flintstown and Cornville will be more than the difference was between either of them and long-forgotten Grainville back in the early days of the corn-investing boom. And Flintstown will have so much capital accumulated that its citizens will have long been able to consume at higher levels than the once-proud residents of Corntown, even while their economy continues to grow at a faster pace.

You can imagine what happens from there. All the trade roads lead to Flintstown, which is home to the best markets. If you want to be an artist or a poet instead of a corn-trader, Flintstown is where you go — it is wealthy enough to support art and high culture. All the most enterprising and energetic residents of other villages dream of a better life in Flintstown. If invaders come from foreign shores, Flintstown has the resources to protect itself. And it has so much corn that it can experiment with new corn-growing techniques; if it loses a little in a bad experiment, nobody is going to starve. Corntown does okay, too, but it will never catch up with Flintstown — not unless it gets more serious about investing or Flintstown lets up.

And all that is possible because the Flintstowners decided, a long time ago, that they could make do with a half-bushel less of corn every year.

There are other ways to get your hands on that seed corn, of course. Perhaps some enterprising investors from another rich village saw an opportunity in Flintstown, admiring the thrifty ways of its residents, and lent them the extra seed corn in exchange for a cut of future harvests. That would work, too, but there is no way of getting around the fact that you can’t plant corn you eat, and you can’t eat corn you plant. Somebody, somewhere, had to consume less corn than they produced to make that growth possible.

And the worst-case scenario is borrowing corn to eat today to be paid back out of future harvests.

Tags: CrossroadsGPS ,

Middle Cheese: The State of the Race, with 48 Hours to Go


Middle Cheese checks in, having talked to some of the Big Cheeses over at the Romney campaign:

Here’s where Team Romney’s take on the state of the race with 48 hours to go:

FL — Obama has a 60 percent drop off in early/absentee voting from 2008.

VA — Obama has a 20 percent drop off early/absentee votes in counties they won in 2008.

OH — Obama under-performing in coal counties of OH. Romney leading by double-digits over Obama in 21 of the last 24 polls among independents.

IA — Obama needed a 130k early/absentee vote lead; he has 90k right now.

CO — Romney has 50k early/absentee vote lead; Obama needed to have a lead in early/absentee voting.

NV — Obama needed 80k early/absentee vote lead coming out of Clark County; he has 71k.  Romney needs strong turnout in rest of state.

PA — 96 percent of vote is on Election Day. Polls show rapidly tightening race. 30k showed up for Romney rally in Bucks County last night.

WI — early/absentee vote is very encouraging (sorry, no numbers).

NH — 90 percent of vote on Election Day. WMUR poll shows 47-47 tied–9 point swing from last poll.

Overall, Team Romney is extremely confident for several reasons: 1) a 5-7 point advantage on voter intensity, 2) a double digit lead among independents, 3) in D+9 polls, Obama can’t break 50 percent, 4) GOP matching or exceeding Obama in voter contacts (440,000 made in OH over the weekend).

Tags: CrossroadsGPS

Middle Cheese: Everybody’s Ending the Campaign in Blue States


Middle Cheese’s Friday update, after checking in with the Romney Big Cheeses:

Romney makes his closing arguments today at events in Wisconsin and Ohio.

His main messages:

1) Obama has been a disappointment because he has failed to fulfill his promises;

2) Obama is incapable of reaching across party lines to solve America’s problems—and that a Romney Administration will forge bipartisan solutions; and

3) America is only five days away from making a fresh start and real change.

Obama is in big trouble in Wisconsin. He is spending his last weekend in a state that last went Republican in the 1984 Reagan landslide.

Team Romney is going hard after Pennsylvania because both internal and public polling show significant movement toward Romney in recent days.  Yesterday, Rep. Ryan and Sen. Marco Rubio drew large and enthusiastic crowds in Pennsylvania.  On Sunday, Romney will hold a campaign rally in the Philadelphia suburbs. Who would have thought that Obama would spend the last days of the campaign defending a solidly blue state, while Romney makes a play for another one?

Tags: CrossroadsGPS

Middle Cheese: Romney’s Down 2 in Wisconsin, Could Finish Up 2


After Middle Cheese’s last update of the outlook in key swing states, a lot of readers noticed Wisconsin wasn’t mentioned. My source, formerly of the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign and now talking regularly to the Romney big cheeses, wanted to check in with someone:

I left Wisconsin off my last report because I wanted to check in with a “Middle Cheesehead” source in the Badger State.

He says the trend in Wisconsin is moving in the right direction, although Romney is about 2 points behind Obama right now. Enthusiasm among GOP voters is very high. The Milwaukee collar counties (Waukesha, Washington and Ozaukee) are mostly Republican and will turn out strongly for the Romney/Ryan ticket. The Fox River cities up through Green Bay are not as well organized and the GOP needs to put more ground game effort there first, and then second work west of Madison to LaCrosse and south along the river. Some of those voters are potential Baldwin/Romney ticket splitters. Let’s remember that the ground game infrastructure from the Walker recalls and related elections remains intact. According to Middle-Cheesehead, all Team Romney needs to do is crank up the ground game a bit in the above-mentioned areas, and they could win Wisconsin by 2 points.

As you undoubtedly hear a lot these days, a Wisconsin win would make Ohio moot, as long as Romney takes the Southern states that currently look good (North Carolina, Florida, and Virginia) and keeps his lead in New Hampshire and Colorado.

Tags: CrossroadsGPS , Mitt Romney , Wisconsin

Middle Cheese: Obama Scaling Back in North Carolina, but Not Florida Yet


Middle Cheese checks in with a short update, pouring some cold water on the talk that the Obama campaign is triaging states already: “Team Romney says they have seen evidence that the Obama campaign is scaling back in North Carolina. None yet in Florida.”

Considering that the final debate is in Florida and that Romney’s lead in the state is consistent but small, and the impact news of a scaledown/concession would have on Democrats’ morale nationwide, it would make sense for the Obama campaign to stay active in Florida for as long as possible.

Tags: Florida , CrossroadsGPS , North Carolina

Middle Cheese: Keep an Eye on Swing-State Latinos


Middle Cheese writes in on a topic he’s been examining a while, how Obama and Romney stack up on the Latino vote.

Conventional wisdom holds that Mitt Romney is faring so badly with Hispanic voters that he cannot possibly win.

A recent CNN/ORC poll of Hispanics nationally finds President Obama has the support of 70 percent Hispanic voters compared to 26 percent for Mitt Romney. By comparison, John McCain got 31 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2008 and George W. Bush got 44 percent in 2004, according to exit polls.

Nationally, I think the more relevant comparison is George W. Bush, who was a two-term Governor of a border state, and got 35 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2000.

Further, national polls can be deceiving because they survey Hispanics from populous states like California and New York, who are overwhelmingly Democratic voters.

Let’s look at the polls of Hispanics in the key battleground states of Florida, Nevada, and Colorado. Now the polls are all over the place, depending on whether they surveyed registered voters or likely voters. However, comparing some recent polls to the 2008 results produces some very interesting trends:

PPP Florida Poll this week shows Romney with 47% of Hispanics and Obama with 49%.

In 2008, Obama took 57% of the vote compared to McCain’s 42%.

As we all know, a large portion — though not all — of Florida’s Hispanic population is Cuban-American, and that community tends to lean Republican more than Latinos who trace their heritage to other Latin countries. Having said that, there had been buzz in recent years that Florida’s Cuban-Americans were growing less solidly Republican, and the 2008 result might be seen as evidence of that. Either 2008 is an outlier, or Romney is winning them back, so far.

Middle Cheese continues:

WSJ/NBC/Marist Nevada Poll this week shows Romney with 36% of Hispanics and Obama with 62%.

In 2008, Obama took 76% of the vote compared to McCain’s 22%.

ARG Colorado Poll this week shows Romney with 38% of Hispanics and Obama with 53%.

In 2008, Obama took 61% of the vote compared to McCain’s 38%.

Team Romney has made some very smart adjustments in both the tone and substance of Romney’s stance on immigration, which is a gateway issue for Hispanics. For example, Romney announced that he would allow undocumented “Dreamers” who were offered a two-year deferral on deportation by Obama to stay in the country if he becomes President, and that he would seek a permanent legislative solution for these undocumented young achievers who pursue higher education or serve in the military.

By doing so, Hispanics — who have experienced sharply higher rates of joblessness under Obama than the general population — are increasingly receptive to Romney’s core message of promoting upward mobility and creating 12 million jobs through pro-growth policies.To wit, a new Latino Decisions national poll has Romney at 33 percent among Hispanics, a seven point increase from a month ago.

The bottom line: Obama is not where he was with Hispanic voters in 2008 and Romney is steadily improving on McCain’s showing, which will be critical in carrying these battleground states.

Mitt’s strong debate performance the other night will no doubt boost his numbers among independent Hispanics voters. I am going to go out on a limb and predict that Mitt Romney will do at least as well as George W. Bush did among Hispanics in 2000, and he will win a majority of Hispanics in Florida.

Tags: Colorado , Florida , CrossroadsGPS , Nevada , Polling

Middle Cheese: Romney Aiming for Purple State Swing Voters Now


Credit my formerly mid-level, increasingly higher-level GOP source Middle Cheese; he’s willing to admit when a prediction doesn’t pan out:

Wow, was I wrong about last night’s debate. I was absolutely certain that Obama would mercilessly attack Romney on Bain, “47 percent,” tax returns, etc. Perhaps Obama lost his nerve with Romney standing right in front of him. However, starting today, expect Axelrod and Team Obama to dredge up this slime and go 100 percent negative to halt Mitt’s momentum. I mean, Joe Biden will be a rabid dog at next week’s VP debate with Paul Ryan.

Permit me to interject . . . I . . . can’t . . . wait.

Meanwhile, Team Romney’s single-minded strategy will be to appeal to swing voters in the swing/purple States (and who knows, maybe even in one or two blue States).

As reported to Buzzfeed: “A third Romney aide, granted anonymity to bluntly discuss strategy, told BuzzFeed that Boston is no longer concerned about conservatives’ support, and wanted instead to use the debate to talk to a segment of the electorate they haven’t reached yet.” (Not sure “no longer concerned about conservatives’ support” is exactly what this Romney aide said, but we get the point).

As Mike Murphy cogently observed in a tweet: “We’re seeing that Romney can do when freed of his campaign harness and the worry about ‘the base.’ Base will be fine. They like winning.”

Last night, Mitt energized the base and appealed to swing voters. He was absolutely “Reaganesque.” Romney’s message is a winning one: America faces a big choice between four more years of the last four years of stagnant growth, and a forward-looking, pro-growth agenda that promotes upward mobility and lifts people out of poverty.

Tags: Barack Obama , CrossroadsGPS , Mitt Romney

Middle Cheese: Team Romney Expects 90 Minutes of Attacks from Obama


Middle Cheese, my mid-level campaign source from the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign who talks regularly with the movers and shakers on the Romney campaign, sends along his pre-debate thoughts.

President Barack Obama should win tonight’s debate, hands down, no contest. Obama is one of the most gifted communicators in modern political history.

(Must everyone play the expectations game?) But he points out that the format is one familiar to Obama, but not to Romney; between Hillary Clinton and John McCain, Barack Obama has participated in seven one-on-one presidential debates. Tonight will be Mitt Romney’s first.

Middle Cheese continues:

In the 2008 debates, he won decisively against John McCain, who was an experienced debater. According to Gallup, Obama won all three debates with McCain In 2008: “Round three of the presidential debates went to Barack Obama, according to a one-night USA Today/Gallup poll of debate watchers conducted Oct. 16, completing a sweep of the three debates for Obama. . . . Still, Obama won each debate by a convincing margin.”

Since President Obama can’t talk about his economic record and doesn’t have a plan to create jobs, save Medicare, or balance the budget, expect him to launch a vicious 90-minute negative attack against Governor Romney. It will be the Greatest Hits of Obama’s negative campaign: “Outsourcing jobs.” “War on Women.” “Tax hikes on the middle-class.” “The 47 percent.” And so on.

Look for Mitt Romney to hammer home the point that America cannot afford another four years like the last four years. He’ll explain how his policies will improve the lives of everyday Americans. He’ll frame this election as a “big choice” between more dependency and more opportunity, between more government and more freedom for all Americans.

Since everyone expects the “47 percent” comment to come up, maybe we’ll see Romney talk about what he means by dependency, and how Americans lead unhappier lives when they come to depend upon government for everything they need and want.

Although tonight’s debate format is on domestic issues, look for Romney to find an opportunity to critique Obama’s foreign policy, which is unraveling before our eyes on television, and specifically to raise questions about the Obama Administration’s inability to protect our Ambassador in Benghazi. Governor Romney’s goal isn’t to win the debating points against President Obama, but rather to speak to the American people about why we cannot afford another four years of President Obama, and what he would do differently to create a real recovery at home and restore American leadership abroad.

Tags: Barack Obama , CrossroadsGPS , Mitt Romney

The Crossroads GPS Ad That Swing States Will See a Lot


If you live in a swing state, expect to see a lot of this ad in the coming month, as Crossroads GPS is going to spend $25 million to air it in  Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

That’s a lot of broken glass.

The new spot will start airing Thursday, May 17 and run through May 31 in an $8 million initial buy.

Tags: Barack Obama , CrossroadsGPS

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