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The winners and losers of the US election

From Elizabeth Warren and memes, to glum Fox News pundits and Paul Ryan's biceps.

Winner: Elizabeth Warren

The bankruptcy law expert, consumer rights advocate, Harvard Law School professor and grandmother defeated incumbent Scott Brown to become the first woman to represent Massachusetts in the Senate. A win for everyone who believes that someone with a huge depth of knowledge and experience should be involved in making laws.

Loser: Todd Akin

Beaten in the Missouri Senate race by incumbent Claire McAskill. Akin was abandoned by his party after he said in August that "if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." Actually:

Winner: Tammy Baldwin

Narrowly defeated Republican Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin to become the US's first openly gay senator. After her victory, she said:

I am well aware that I will have the honour to be Wisconsin's first woman US senator... And I am well aware that I will be the first openly gay member of the United States Senate, but I didn't run to make history. I ran to make a difference.

Winner: Colorado and Washington (and, arguably, Mexico)

The two states voted to legalise marijuana - in Colorado it will be available to anyone over the age of 21 and regulated in a similar way to alcohol and tobacco. As the Economist reports, studies show that "Mexico’s traffickers would lose about $1.4 billion of their $2 billion revenues from marijuana" as a result of the legalisation.

Winner: Dan Hodges

The Telegraph and New Statesman pundit Dan Hodges correctly called the election for Obama before anyone else in the British press dared to (at about 2am) thus exorcising the memory of his "David Miliband has won the Labour leadership contest" call in 2010.

The following Twitter exchange sums it up pretty well:

Winner: Nate Silver

The New York Times's resident number-cruncher called every single state correctly. Via @cosentino on Twitter, here's how the actual result and Silver's predictions side by side:

His predictions might be uncanny, but that's because Silver's a probably a witch. (Although we are intrigued to know what happens to him now - does the NYT power him down and put him in a display case in the lobby until the midterms?)

Winner: Mother Jones and Buzzfeed

The magazine Mother Jones and the website Buzzfeed, in their different ways, completely rewrote the book on how to cover an election. Mother Jones's mega-scoop of the 47 per cent video, for instance, or Buzzfeed's article "Donald Trump's Kids Love Killing Animals", just for starters. As Helen wrote in the magazine a few weeks ago:

You may not have heard of Mother Jones, but if you follow American politics, then you’ll have seen the fallout from its scoop. Addressing supporters, the presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said: “There are 47 per cent who are with [Obama], who are dependent on government, who believe they are victims” and who would “vote for him no matter what”. Mother Jones’s Washington bureau chief, David Corn, found the video online and beat the Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim to track down its owner and verify its contents.

It brought more than two million visitors to the magazine’s website in the first 12 hours of the story – double the number it would normally get in a month. Not bad for a tiny, independent magazine that has been declared dead several times – particularly when it was up against the HuffPo, which has the full corporate financial power of AOL behind it.

Loser: Donald Trump

Because he does things like this, and this, and this, and this. We could go on.

Loser: Karl Rove

Got in a fight with Fox News last night after they called Ohio for Obama, calling it "premature". You can understand why he was so upset - he did pour a vast amount of money and effort into supporting Romney...

Loser: Paul Ryan

Not only did Paul Ryan not become vice-president last night, he also now has to live with the fact that this is all he will ever be remembered for (those guns should be illegal!)

Well, that, and not being any good at economics.

Loser: Fox News

Look at the quiet despair on their faces as it became clear that Obama had won:

Loser: Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu, who despite putting a brave face on it and congratulating Obama, will surely be annoyed.

Winner: Gay marriage

Maine and Maryland became the first states to approve equal marriage legislation by popular vote. This makes the east coast states the seventh and eighth states to allow same-sex couples to marry, while campaigners are hailing the vote as a turning point in attitudes towards gay people.

Loser: Climate Change

Although it got a reference in Obama's acceptance speech, until Michael Bloomberg's intervention after Hurricane Sandy, the phrase had barely passed the candidates' lips during the campaign.

Loser: The Tea Party

Democrat victories, especially in Senate races (see Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin, above) have hopefully put the final nail in the coffin of the idea that the GOP needs the Tea Party in order to be electorally successful. Fingers crossed that, after a period of soul-searching, moderate Republicans are able to reassert themselves over candidate selection processes. Although that might be a bit hopeful - the 2010 midterms didn't deliver the Tea Party landslide it was supposed to either, and it didn't seem to dent their confidence one bit...

Winner: Chris Christie

Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey. His non-partisan and statesman-like handling of the Superstorm Sandy aftermath won him many plaudits, although his praise for Barack Obama endeared him a bit less to his own party - some outlets even went as far as to say Christie had "endorsed" the Democrat candidate. As the GOP licks its wounds, expect much speculation about whether Christie might run his own race in 2016. Especially, as Ezra Klein argues, he's definitely not too fat to be president.

Loser: Janet Daley

Telegraph columnist and blogger Janet Daley, who just at the moment when the world was coming round to the fact that Obama had pretty much got it in the bag, "got off the fence" and called it for Romney:

With hindsight, the fence might have been a safer bet, Janet.

Loser: Tom Calvocoressi

New Statesman Deputy Chief Sub-Editor Tom Calvocoressi. A tiny tiny part of him was hoping Romney might just squeak it, so he could deploy his brilliant pun-headline: "The Mormon Conquest".

Loser: Big Money

In the wake of the Citizens United ruling at the Supreme Court (remember “corporations are people”?), many liberals worried that the election would be “bought” by billionaire donors. But the savvy micro-targeting (and sheer gusto) of Obama’s money-raising machine proved them wrong.

Winner: Stephen Colbert

This isn’t the last we’ll hear about Super PACs – the “political action committees” set up to fund candidates “independently” of them – so it’s a good time to learn what they are. Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert has been trying to edutain people about them all election, setting up his own. Its slogan is Making A Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow.

Here's a video explaining them:

And here's a picture of him in a fetching jumpsuit:

Loser: Meatloaf

There wasn't a dry eye in the house when Meatloaf joined Mitt Romney on stage. Nor an unclenched buttock:


Caroline Crampton is web editor of the New Statesman.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

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Q&A: What are tax credits and how do they work?

All you need to know about the government's plan to cut tax credits.

What are tax credits?

Tax credits are payments made regularly by the state into bank accounts to support families with children, or those who are in low-paid jobs. There are two types of tax credit: the working tax credit and the child tax credit.

What are they for?

To redistribute income to those less able to get by, or to provide for their children, on what they earn.

Are they similar to tax relief?

No. They don’t have much to do with tax. They’re more of a welfare thing. You don’t need to be a taxpayer to receive tax credits. It’s just that, unlike other benefits, they are based on the tax year and paid via the tax office.

Who is eligible?

Anyone aged over 16 (for child tax credits) and over 25 (for working tax credits) who normally lives in the UK can apply for them, depending on their income, the hours they work, whether they have a disability, and whether they pay for childcare.

What are their circumstances?

The more you earn, the less you are likely to receive. Single claimants must work at least 16 hours a week. Let’s take a full-time worker: if you work at least 30 hours a week, you are generally eligible for working tax credits if you earn less than £13,253 a year (if you’re single and don’t have children), or less than £18,023 (jointly as part of a couple without children but working at least 30 hours a week).

And for families?

A family with children and an income below about £32,200 can claim child tax credit. It used to be that the more children you have, the more you are eligible to receive – but George Osborne in his most recent Budget has limited child tax credit to two children.

How much money do you receive?

Again, this depends on your circumstances. The basic payment for a single claimant, or a joint claim by a couple, of working tax credits is £1,940 for the tax year. You can then receive extra, depending on your circumstances. For example, single parents can receive up to an additional £2,010, on top of the basic £1,940 payment; people who work more than 30 hours a week can receive up to an extra £810; and disabled workers up to £2,970. The average award of tax credit is £6,340 per year. Child tax credit claimants get £545 per year as a flat payment, plus £2,780 per child.

How many people claim tax credits?

About 4.5m people – the vast majority of these people (around 4m) have children.

How much does it cost the taxpayer?

The estimation is that they will cost the government £30bn in April 2015/16. That’s around 14 per cent of the £220bn welfare budget, which the Tories have pledged to cut by £12bn.

Who introduced this system?

New Labour. Gordon Brown, when he was Chancellor, developed tax credits in his first term. The system as we know it was established in April 2003.

Why did they do this?

To lift working people out of poverty, and to remove the disincentives to work believed to have been inculcated by welfare. The tax credit system made it more attractive for people depending on benefits to work, and gave those in low-paid jobs a helping hand.

Did it work?

Yes. Tax credits’ biggest achievement was lifting a record number of children out of poverty since the war. The proportion of children living below the poverty line fell from 35 per cent in 1998/9 to 19 per cent in 2012/13.

So what’s the problem?

Well, it’s a bit of a weird system in that it lets companies pay wages that are too low to live on without the state supplementing them. Many also criticise tax credits for allowing the minimum wage – also brought in by New Labour – to stagnate (ie. not keep up with the rate of inflation). David Cameron has called the system of taxing low earners and then handing them some money back via tax credits a “ridiculous merry-go-round”.

Then it’s a good thing to scrap them?

It would be fine if all those low earners and families struggling to get by would be given support in place of tax credits – a living wage, for example.

And that’s why the Tories are introducing a living wage...

That’s what they call it. But it’s not. The Chancellor announced in his most recent Budget a new minimum wage of £7.20 an hour for over-25s, rising to £9 by 2020. He called this the “national living wage” – it’s not, because the current living wage (which is calculated by the Living Wage Foundation, and currently non-compulsory) is already £9.15 in London and £7.85 in the rest of the country.

Will people be better off?

No. Quite the reverse. The IFS has said this slightly higher national minimum wage will not compensate working families who will be subjected to tax credit cuts; it is arithmetically impossible. The IFS director, Paul Johnson, commented: “Unequivocally, tax credit recipients in work will be made worse off by the measures in the Budget on average.” It has been calculated that 3.2m low-paid workers will have their pay packets cut by an average of £1,350 a year.

Could the government change its policy to avoid this?

The Prime Minister and his frontbenchers have been pretty stubborn about pushing on with the plan. In spite of criticism from all angles – the IFS, campaigners, Labour, The Sun – Cameron has ruled out a review of the policy in the Autumn Statement, which is on 25 November. But there is an alternative. The chair of parliament’s Work & Pensions Select Committee and Labour MP Frank Field has proposed what he calls a “cost neutral” tweak to the tax credit cuts.

How would this alternative work?

Currently, if your income is less than £6,420, you will receive the maximum amount of tax credits. That threshold is called the gross income threshold. Field wants to introduce a second gross income threshold of £13,100 (what you earn if you work 35 hours a week on minimum wage). Those earning a salary between those two thresholds would have their tax credits reduced at a slower rate on whatever they earn above £6,420 up to £13,100. The percentage of what you earn above the basic threshold that is deducted from your tax credits is called the taper rate, and it is currently at 41 per cent. In contrast to this plan, the Tories want to halve the income threshold to £3,850 a year and increase the taper rate to 48 per cent once you hit that threshold, which basically means you lose more tax credits, faster, the more you earn.

When will the tax credit cuts come in?

They will be imposed from April next year, barring a u-turn.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.