Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Last Call

Steve Benen finds more grim news about the enthusiasm gap.

Specifically, 20% of respondents in this poll said Congress had accomplished more this year than in recent Congresses, 36% said less had been done, while 37% saw it as about average. Among Democrats, the results were better, but not much -- 33% said this Congress scored well on accomplishments, 23% said less was done, and 37% said this Congress accomplished about the same amount.

Putting aside whether one approved of the policy breakthroughs, this poll result makes it seem as if much of the public simply doesn't realize that the policy breakthroughs were unusual.

I don't expect the public to have an extensive knowledge of federal policymaking history, but I at least hoped Americans would realize the scope of recent accomplishments. We are, after all, talking about a two-year span in which Congress passed and the president signed the Affordable Care Act, the Recovery Act, Wall Street reform, student loan reform, Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, new regulation of the credit card industry, new regulation of the tobacco industry, a national service bill, expanded stem-cell research, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the most sweeping land-protection act in 15 years, etc. Policymakers might yet add to this list in the lame-duck session.

Or it could be Steve that (as anonymous commenters keep remind me) there's a 9.6% unemployment rate and none of that stuff matters if you've been out of work for a year and are about to lose your house as a result.   Despite the very real fact that it would be worse without all those accomplishments, the average American voter is hurting, and they are going to either take it out on the Dems, or simply won't vote.

Either one is deadly to the Democrats and will likely bring huge Republican gains unless people get motivated and soon.

Running on what the Dems have done isn't going to work.  I hate to say it, but running on what the Republicans plan to do is about the only honest shot you have of keeping Congress.

I Do Not Think That Word Means What You Think It Means

Today's contestant:  Larry Kudlow and the word "simple".
The budget can be balanced very quickly by simply limiting the annual growth of federal spending.

Well, okay there Larry.  And as long as you also limit the growth of population in the US, that's fine.  So let's hear that conservative plan to limit the birth rate in this country when conservatives are against abortion and increasingly against birth control, and medical science is allowing people to live longer.

Otherwise, you're reducing spending per capita as growth in spending doesn't keep up with growth in population.

Here in reality, we call those spending cuts.  So yes, you can indeed cut enough spending to balance the budget.  So let's hear the Republican plan to do that.

Zandar's Thought Of The Day

In the end, what we're most likely facing is a situation where Republican turnout will be close to what it was in 2008, and Democratic turnout will be less than what it was in 2006.  the results will be something like 50% more Republicans and Independents voting than Democrats in this midterm, and that will spell disaster for the Dems.

Planning to stay home for Election Day because you don't care?  You're not alone.  And a whole bunch of Republicans do care.  They are going to vote.  Combined with the overwhelming torrent of corporate money being used to buy votes and movtivate Republicans, we're up against the wall here.

If you want to know why, well, we need about 2.5% GDP growth to break even on employment.  Anything less than that an unemployment increases.  We're...kinda borderline 2% right now and will be for some time.  this means long-term structural unemployment as the new normal.  At that rate, unemployment will actually rise about .2% or .3% a year, to around 12% or so in 2020.

The bad news is that in the meantime, the Republicans will have wrecked the economy so badly that 2% growth will be a dream scenario.

In the end, it's unemployment, stupid.

Turn On The Lights, Watch The Roaches Scatter, Part 8

Here's a video recap of Foreclosuregeddon where CNBC's Larry Kudlow, who knows nothing, and CNBC's real estate commentator Diana Olick, who is actually pretty knowledgeable, talk it out. Luckily Olick's around to explain things in pretty easy terms to the brainless Kudlow, and her explanation is actually very well done and worth watching.

Bottom line, Olick thinks a 90-day national moratorium on foreclosures is coming very, very soon and that it will annihilate the housing market. She's right on both accounts.

Also, ending said moratorium is going to be very difficult politically. At some point during that moratorium, I'm betting another TARP program will be on the way, as the banks are going to get stone cold murdered the second that moratorium is announced.

Meanwhile, thirty California House Dems have joined Nancy Pelosi calling for investigations into the mortgage banks.  D-Day has the goods:

Crucially, the letter links the violations by lenders in dealing with mortgage modifications and foreclosures, painting a picture of an industry unwilling to take a smaller profit on their homes and unable to operate in a scrupulous way in foreclosing on homes, resorting to document forgery and outright fraud. And the California Democrats aren’t just armed with a letter, but a series of case studies from their constituents, showing problems with untimely and inconsistent communication from lenders to borrowers, misrepresentation of trial modifications and other bad faith dealings by the banks. The 20-page document is a treasure trove of stories not unlike my portrait of HAMP failure, showing the banks screwing with their customers repeatedly.

So yes, that foreclosure moratorium does seem in the cards.

Installing A Puppy Government

Apparently the Tea Party hates the government so much that they are viciously fighting anti-puppy mill abuse laws in Missouri.

The measure, which can be read in full here, is called Proposition B or the "Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act." It aims to help eliminate the "3000 puppy mills" in Missouri that constitute "30% of all puppy mills in the U.S.," according to Michael Markarian, the Chief Operating Officer of the Humane Society.

"This measure would provide common sense standards for the care of dogs," he told TPM, including sufficient food and clean water, vet care, regular exercise, and adequate rest between breeding cycles, among other things. Markarian said the measure only applies to "commercial dog breeding facilities" that have more than 10 breeding females who they use for "producing puppies for the pet trade."

Sounds pretty straightforward, no?

Well, according to the Alliance For Truth, the main force behind the anti-Prop B movement, there is something much more nefarious afoot (er, apaw) in the Humane Society's measure. The Alliance For Truth claims that the Humane Society of the United States has a "radical agenda" and is "misleading the public with its intentions on Prop B. The society seeks only to raise the cost of breeding dogs, making it ever-more difficult for middle-class American families to be dog-owners."

Anita Andrews from Alliance For Truth told TPM that it's a "deceptive, lying bill" that is "trying to purposefully get rid of the breeders." The state of Missouri, she said, has been given a bad rap as "the puppy mill capitol" of the U.S. but "in truth we have the best ribbon breeders in the country." And, Andrews said, the state already has anti-cruelty laws on the books.

"They don't like animals," she said of the Humane Society. 

You know, at some point, you have to accept that legislation serves a purpose.  As a matter of fact, at some point you have to accept that government itself serves a purpose.  Apparently if you are a teabagger, there is no purpose to government or government regulation, and we should all really just shut up and listen to the people with the money, because their rich and al smarter than us and we should trust them to look out for us in some sort of anarcho-capitalist collective.

You know, companies like BP and Goldman Sachs and Blackwater.  They're all good eggs.

Seriously, if you can't bring yourself to say "Hey, puppy mills are inhumane and they should be more regulated, especially given the number of stray and abandoned animals in this country" then I wonder if you have human compassion at all.

A Completely DeMint-ed Plan

GOP Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina wants Republicans to pull the trigger on the government shutdown option as soon as November's lame duck session of Congress.  Brian Beutler:

"[B]efore they're replaced in January, all of the Democrats who are put out of a job in November will be able to come back and rob the nation blind," DeMint writes in the conservative National Review.

At a glance it appears DeMint is lashing out at Democrats. But his real concern is that members of his own party -- who he described last week as "retiring Republican appropriators" -- will join Democrats during the lame-duck session of Congress and pass large spending legislation to keep the government running (what's known on the Hill as an omnibus spending bill).

In the article, DeMint notes that potential Republican Senate victories in Illinois, West Virginia, and Delaware would grow GOP ranks, and help them limit spending. He's urging Republicans to press Democrats now to vow not to pass any major appropriations measures in November or December.

Here's a primer on just what DeMint proposes. In short, he wants Republicans to block any plan to fund government though the 2011 fiscal year, preferring instead to let the new Congress take up government spending in February -- presumably with a much larger Republican presence in the Senate. The catch is that, if neither side blinks, we end up with a government shutdown.

Great.  That's just what our economy needs, by the way:  a government shutdown.   Since odds are excellent that the GOP will have more votes in the House and Senate after November anyway, and given that the Tea Party completely controls the Republicans now, you can count on a shutdown showdown coming in the next several months.

The question is who will blink first?  Clinton won this battle the last time around.  But there's no doubt in my mind that we'll be facing another shutdown very, very soon.  The GOP is content to let the country and our economy burn in order to get what they want.

That's their idea of "bi-partisan compromise".

She Turned Him Into A Newt Once (Or Was That Turned Newt Into A Human?)

Christine O'Donnell would like you to know that she is not a witch.

And really, the only thing better than this truly bizarre ad are the Wingers lining up to explain in all seriousness why this is the BEST POLITICAL AD EVER and now of course she'll win easily and the GOP leadership will totally embrace her because she's such a bowl of starbursty awesome flakes.

And if she loses, somebody gets turned into some sort of reptile. Maybe an amphibian, like a frog or Ben Roethlisberger. I don't know. You should vote for her because she'll totally put silly bands in the vending machines outside the library, and there will be more pep rallies so people can ditch 7th period.

Besides, real witches would kick her narrow ass on general principle.

Blue Dogs Pee On The Rug Again

Old conventional wisdom:  GOP takes the House and the Blue Dogs are the ones who will lose their seats.

New conventional wisdom:  Dems barely keep the House and the Blue Dogs that survive are the margin the Dems need.  They'll run the House and may threaten to jump parties to the GOP to give them control unless they get everything they want.

“We would then be in a position where they would have to listen to us,” said one of those Democrats expected to remain, Rep. Gene Taylor (Miss.).

In interviews, Democratic strategists and nonpartisan political analysts pointed to several conservative Democrats who would be most likely to become the Nelsons or Liebermans of the House. Combining political independence with electoral strength, they broke ranks with Pelosi as much or more than any other member of the Democratic Caucus and yet are considered likely to survive all but the largest GOP tidal wave in November.

These members would also be the top candidates for a party switch if the House is up for grabs, and they could determine if Pelosi returns as Speaker at all — a few have said they would prefer someone other than her next year.

In other words, the House becomes as locked up by the "sensible centrists" as the Senate is now.  Just what we need.  Either the Republicans take the house and get their way, or the Blue Dogs take over and get their way.

Amounts to the same thing in the end, does it not?  Hoping there's a third option here:  Blue Dogs get trashed, but stronger Dems keep their seats.  We'll see.

Mind The Gap, Lads

Nate Silver takes a look at those frightening Gallup likely poll numbers from yesterday and attempts to parse them with the rest of the likely voter models he's seeing.

Gallup’s “higher turnout” model shows a 10-point gap between the preferences of registered and likely voters (a 3-point advantage for Republicans among registered voters becomes 13 points among those more likely to vote). Their “lower turnout” model, meanwhile, shows a 15-point gap. How do these numbers compare to what other pollsters are showing?

I’m fond of pollsters who publish results among both registered and likely voters. Among other things, it provides valuable information for our forecasting model, which builds in an adjustment to “translate” the results of registered voter polls into likely voter terms. The process by which the model does this is slightly complicated, but in recent weeks, it had been showing a gap of around 4 or 5 points in the Republicans’ favor between the two types of surveys, and had been giving Republicans a “bonus” for that reason.

This gap, however, may vary significantly from polling firm to polling firm. Just this past weekend, for instance, a Newsweek poll showed Democrats 5 points ahead among registered voters — already a good number for them — but with a larger lead of 8 points among likely voters (Newsweek calls them “definite voters”, but it’s basically the same thing ). That is, it showed a 3-point likely voter gap in the Democrats’ favor. By contrast, as we noted, the Gallup poll shows as much as a 15-point swing in Republicans’ favor when a likely voter model is applied.

Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised to learn that the results that most other pollsters are showing lies somewhere in between these two extremes.

Bottom line is Nate's coming up with a likely voter picture showing a Republican advantage of about 5 points, not 13 or 18.  That's the good news.   The bad news for the Dems is that still gives the GOP control of the House, as that translates into a pickup of about 46 seats for the Republicans, they need 39.

Which, interestingly enough, is what Nate Silver's model has been showing for the last couple of weeks now, Republicans with 224 seats and Democrats with 211, or a pickup of 45.

It's still going to be damn close on the Dems keeping the House.  It will come down to several individual races here, and that means people need to vote.

Train Of No Thought

Republicans don't like trains very much, apparently.  Even if you give them the trains and pay for building the tracks, they freak out at the small maintenance costs and vow to kill the project.

In Wisconsin, which got more than $810 million in federal stimulus money to build a train line between Milwaukee and Madison, Scott Walker, the Milwaukee County executive and Republican candidate for governor, has made his opposition to the project central to his campaign.

Mr. Walker, who worries that the state could be required to spend $7 million to $10 million a year to operate the trains once the line is built, started a Web site, NoTrain.com, and has run a television advertisement in which he calls the rail project a boondoggle. “I’m Scott Walker,” he says in the advertisement, “and if I’m elected as your next governor, we’ll stop this train.”

Similar concerns are threatening to stall many of the nation’s biggest train projects. In Ohio, the Republican candidate for governor, John Kasich, is vowing to kill a $400 million federal stimulus project to link Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati by rail. In Florida, Rick Scott, the Republican candidate for governor, has questioned whether the state should invest in the planned rail line from Orlando to Tampa. The state got $1.25 billion in federal stimulus money for the project, but it will cost at least twice that much to complete.

And the nation’s most ambitious high-speed rail project, California’s $45 billion plan to link Los Angeles and San Francisco with trains that would go up to 220 miles per hour, could be delayed if Meg Whitman, a Republican, is elected governor. “In the face of the state’s current fiscal crisis, Meg doesn’t believe we can afford the costs associated with new high-speed rail at this time,” said Tucker Bounds, a campaign spokesman. 

I can see Florida having reservations about the cost.  I can really see California shelving this.  But, really, Wisconsin?  You're getting $810 million to build a rail corridor from Madison to Milwuakee and you're throwing it away because of a $7-$10 million maintenance cost?  That's chump change to a state.

It's not like the train's going to be free, folks.  You can do things like charge ticket prices to riders to cover the maintenance.  Same thing here in Ohio, I know plenty of folks who would use a rail corridor from Cincy to Dayton to Columbus to Cleveland just to avoid I-71 traffic to get to sporting events.  Hey, and building the rail corridor would create jobs as well as jobs for maintaining the trains.  Ohio would be getting a pretty healthy chunk of federal money for the project too, some $400 million.

But no, apparently if John Kasich is elected Governor, he's killing the project.  Fair enough...that means another state will get the money, use the money, take the jobs, and take credit for it.  Might want to write him a thank-you note.

I can't help but think that if a Republican President was behind this $400 million, John Kasich would be snapping it up and talking about Ohio jobs.  Seems to me rail travel is more egalitarian from a "paying directly for the infrastructure you use" viewpoint than auto travel, and I'm betting it's better for the environment from an emissions standpoint too.

I'm pretty sure 16 Ohio counties could use the jobs for building this thing as well.  Kasich wants to miss the train, it seems.  (Casinos are okay, however.  Go fig.)


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