Science, Statistics, Politics, Current Events, Photos and Life.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Hillary's political ads support John McCain's candidacy more than her own!

The link is to one of the latest of Hillary Clinton's political ads trying to argue that she has more experience than Barack Obama and therefore that voters should support her in her candidacy for president.

The argument is that she has much more experience than Barack. He is 46 at this point, and he will have been in the national Senate for 4 years when he is elected. In contrast, she will have been in the Senate for 8 years if she were to be elected.

The problem with this argument about experience is that McCain has been in national office since 1982 and in the US Senate since 1986. Thus he will have 26 years of national experience by the time of the inauguration. He trumps Hillary on the experience issue by a factor of more than 3 times.

It can be argued that Hillary should be allowed to count her years as first lady in her experience. I'm ok with that, she was busy, including trying her hand at policy issues while there. But this is not true in general of first ladies. Would anyone wish to argue that Laura Bush has 8 years of valuable experience such that we should elect her to national office? Barbara Bush? Maybe, maybe not. Nancy Reagan? Rosalynn Carter? Betty Ford? Some of these are very sharp people, and I suspect a number of them would be easy to underestimate if they had ever gotten into an election.

The two years Hillary spent running for Senate, after being first lady, that certainly counts as political experience. But for someone arguing from the anti-Hillary side of this argument, they could argue that that was two years of fallowness for Hillary.

McCain in contrast, before he was in the House of Representatives, he was in the military. McCain is likely to get a free pass from the national media and from voters on whether his military experience counts as valuable experience for the presidency. Thus he will get credit for over 50 years of experience before becoming president.

Hillary will only hurt herself for the national election by having run on the experience card in the primary. She will have dug herself a hole to start from when competing against John McCain, rather than from a level playing field.

Neither Democrat can compete successfully against McCain straight up using experience as an argument.

Monday, February 25, 2008

How long will John McCain live?

John McCain's age is likely to be an issue in the upcoming 2008 presidential election.

Using the National Center for Health Statistics Life tables for 2004, I calculate there is a 14% chance that a 72 year old white male will die in the next 4 years. In contrast, there is a 3.5% chance that a 47 year old black male will die in the next 4 years. Coincidentally, 3.5% is also the chance that a 61 year old white female will die in the next 4 years.

The calculations used data from tables 5 (white males), 6 (white females) and 8 (black males) of the 2004 National Center for Health Statistics life tables (reference and website below). Ages come from, as does the date of presidential inauguration (Jan 20, 2009).

The ages are chosen to be the same as John McCain (72), Barack Obama (47) and Hillary Clinton (61) at the time of inauguration, should each of them win the presidency.

Here is a table of three probabilities, the probability of dying in the next 4 years and the next 8 years, and the probability, should the person survive 4 years, the probability of dying in the following 4 years.

Demographic next 4 next 8 2nd 4 after surviving first 4
72 yr old white male 14% 35% 25%
47 yr old black male 3.5% 8.2% 4.8%
61 yr old white female 3.5% 8.4% 5.0%

Now the usual disclaimer: these calculations are for a general member of the United States population. The calculations don't necessarily apply specifically to McCain, Obama or Clinton. McCain does not have a typical background for someone of his age, so perhaps these calculations are least appropriate for him. McCain is a Vietnam vet, and a long-term prisoner of war with torture. I would expect those experiences to reduce his life span. On the other hand, he has probably been in good physical shape for most of his life, which should increase his life span.

All three, McCain, Obama and Clinton are well-to-do upper class citizens. This should likely increase their expected life spans, and decrease their probability of dying in the next given set of years.

Source: United States Life Tables, 2004. NVSR Volume 56, Number 9. 40 pp. (PHS) 2008-1120.

Typical calculation. See table 5, take 14% = 100% * (2,155 + 2,298 + 2,448 + 2,581)/68,584 for the probability that a 72 year old will die in the next 4 years.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Unintended consequences

The freakonomics blog at the NY Times (registration required) had a long article on the law of unintended consequences. There were some references to Andy Gelman's comments

Here's my example of another law with a positive unintended consequence. Car-ifornia has instituted laws required young (under 18 years old) aspiring drivers to practice driving at least 50 hours with an adult 25 years of age or older. For most teens, this means they need to negotiate 50 hours of driving with their parents.

The unintended consequence? The 16 year old (in my case) will be spending a forced 50 hours with their parents. To negotiate this, they will need to maintain good relationships with their parents. This law may have the accidental affect of improving family relationships more than almost any other possible law I can think of!