Monday, September 19, 2011

Last Call

The New Yorker's James Surowiecki bemoans that the GOP will be rewarded by voters for doing nothing about the jobs crisis.

But people are underestimating a number of factors that could allow the G.O.P. to pursue an obstructive line without being much punished for it. To begin with, studies show that voters are more likely to hold politicians accountable for economic conditions when there’s “clarity of responsibility”—and responsibility for the economy now belongs to Obama and the Democrats. The recession started long before Obama took office. But, from a voter’s perspective, he had two years with sizable majorities in Congress to do something about it. While the 2009 stimulus plan succeeded in making the recession less awful than it might have been, you rarely get credit in politics for what didn’t happen. More important, in launching the plan, the President effectively took responsibility for the result. If you try to fix it, it’s yours. The Republicans were out of power for two years, and now control only one house of Congress. They can dodge blame, since they’ve had little chance of enacting anything. Co√∂perating on a bill would make it harder for them to disclaim responsibility for a weak economy at election time. They need to do enough to seem as if they cared about unemployment but not so much that they get blamed for it.

Well then, who's letting them get away with that obviously cynical plan?  Would be nice if you called them on it rather than saying "Well, here's what they are doing and it's crap but what can a major national news outlet do to set the record straight."

In addition, while most voters say that they want the government to do something about jobs, talking about voters in general is deceptive: different sets of voters react to economic conditions quite differently. The Republican base is actively hostile toward more government spending, and polls show that swing voters think that reining in deficits is the main priority. That reduces the pressure on Republican politicians to do something about the jobs crisis. Compounding this is the fact that Republican and Democratic voters seem to have different expectations of officeholders. The economist Douglas Hibbs has found that, historically, Democratic voters were more likely to punish incumbents for presiding over periods of high unemployment, while Republican voters were likely to punish incumbents for presiding over periods of high inflation. And a study of gubernatorial elections found that Democrats who presided over increases in taxes and spending were rewarded by voters, while Republicans who did the same were punished. Voters, it seems, don’t expect Republicans to do much about jobs, so they’re not penalized as much for inaction. Uncooperative Republicans are really just delivering what their constituencies expect.

Republican voters expect Republicans to do nothing, and that GOP lawmakers want to do nothing.  They win, because Republicans apparently only give a damn about themselves.

It’s not that the Republican approach is popular: one recent Bloomberg poll found that forty-five per cent of those surveyed think congressional Republicans are responsible for the gridlock in Washington. But it seems to be working: for the past year and a half, the Party has consistently gone for a do-nothing approach and voters have consistently rewarded it. In the run-up to last year’s midterms, Republicans were explicit about their opposition to past, present, and future stimulus programs. They won a landslide victory. And, just last week, in two special elections for the House, Republican candidates who campaigned largely against Obama’s policies won seats in Nevada and New York by margins that were much bigger than expected. Americans may be saying that they want the government to use fiscal policy to get the economy moving again, but the way they vote tells a different story. Perhaps fourteen more months of economic stagnation and no job creation will change that. But, for now, it’s not only our representatives who are to blame. It’s ourselves.

Gee, by taking advantage of low-information voters for 30 years the GOP has managed to wreck the country.  If only there was some sort of media outlet who could spread corrections to that theory...
Funny how that works.

It's Not Class Warfare, It's Math...Or Maybe It Really Is Warfare

As BG in KC points out, the Obama '12 folks have their bumper sticker phrase.  The President unveiled his plan to pay for the American Jobs Act with the Buffett Rule today at the White House.

"During this past decade, profligate spending in Washington, tax cuts into multi-millionaires and billionaires, and two wars have turned a record surplus into a massive deficit," Obama said. "If we don't act, the debt will eventually crowd out everything else, eventually affecting us from investing in things like education and Medicaid. We need to cut what we can't afford to pay for things we need."

Even before Obama delivered the speech, which clearly laid out the differences between both parties in the 2012 contest, Republican leaders were reacting angrily to early reports outlining the President's "go big" push, calling on Congress to cut deficits by $4 trillion over 12 years and institute automatic, across-the-board spending cuts and tax increases if a first target isn't reached by 2014.

Any reform plan must include revenue increases, he argued, because the tax system isn't fair, allowing billionaires such as Warren Buffett to have a lower tax rate than middle-class families.

"This plan eliminates tax loopholes that primarily go to the largest business and corporations--tax breaks that small businesses and middle class Americans don't have to pay," Obama said. "We can't afford these special lower rates for the wealthy, which by the way, were initially talked about as temporary measures."

"Either we have to ask the wealthy to pay their fair share, or we have to ask seniors to pay more for medicare, or gut education," he continued. "This is not class warfare. It's math." 

And there could not be a more stark contrast today than with GOP Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana:

Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) appeared on MSNBC with Chris Jansing this morning to attack President Obama’s new deficit reduction plan, which includes some tax increases on the wealthy. Taking up the typical GOP talking point, Fleming said raising taxes on wealthy “job creators” is a terrible idea that kills jobs because many of these people are small business owners who pay taxes through personal income rates.

Fleming is himself a businesses owner, so Jansing asked, “If you have to pay more in taxes, you would get rid of some of those employees?” Fleming responded by saying that while his businesses made $6.3 million last year, after you “pay 500 employees, you pay rent, you pay equipment, and food,” his profits “a mere fraction of that” — “by the time I feed my family, I have maybe $400,000 left over.”

And as ABL points out, 500 employees and $6 million a year means he's paying his workers on average $12,000 a year or about $6 an hour...less than federal minimum wage.  Sufficient advances in nanotechnology may arise in the next few years in order for science to make a violin small enough to play for this particular asshole, but we're not there yet.

On the other hand, when the whackjob right says class warfare, they mean actual warfare.

Keep the difference in mind.

This Is Already Getting Old

Chicago Tribune politico Steve Chapman brings us This Month In Obama Should Hang It Up.

But there is good news for the president. I checked the Constitution, and he is under no compulsion to run for re-election. He can scrap the campaign, bag the fundraising calls and never watch another Republican debate as long as he's willing to vacate the premises by Jan. 20, 2013.

That might be the sensible thing to do. It's hard for a president to win a second term when unemployment is painfully high. If the economy were in full rebound mode, Obama might win anyway. But it isn't, and it may fall into a second recession — in which case voters will decide his middle name is Hoover, not Hussein. Why not leave of his own volition instead of waiting to get the ax?

Five words:  President Perry's Supreme Court picks.  OK, and who should run in his place?  Oh gosh, let me guess.

The ideal candidate would be a figure of stature and ability who can't be blamed for the economy. That person should not be a member of Congress, since it has an even lower approval rating than the president's.

It would also help to be conspicuously associated with prosperity. Given Obama's reputation for being too quick to compromise, a reputation for toughness would be an asset.

As it happens, there is someone at hand who fits this description: Hillary Clinton. Her husband presided over a boom, she's been busy deposing dictators instead of destroying jobs, and she's never been accused of being a pushover.

Not only that, Clinton is a savvy political veteran who already knows how to run for president. Oh, and a new Bloomberg poll finds her to be merely "the most popular national political figure in America today."

That's awesome.  Even though Hillary has said again and again that there's no way she's running, and it's gotten to the point where Big Dog is publicly saying that Hillary's not going to run, and that conservatives like o'l Nameless One are trying to push Hillary to weaken President Obama.  Gosh, you think?

You'll excuse me if I don't believe for a milisecond here that Mr. Chapman here is truly worried about the President's best interests.  In fact, Conservatives are praying that Hillary runs.  I wonder why that would be?  Steve M. reveals the truth about Chapman, who had a much different view of Hillary this time four years ago during the Dem primary.

Everyone knows Hillary Rodham Clinton, and everyone has a different reaction to her. Some find her as irritating as fingernails on a chalkboard. Some find that she makes their skin crawl. Some run screaming from the room. And some want to drink a gallon of rat poison while lying across a railroad track.

Right. President Obama's best interests at heart here, not to mention they love Hillary. And if you believe that, you may be a Useful Idiot.

How To Bee A Hero

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Thousands of angry bees swarmed a man in a wheelchair, sending him and three others who came to his aid to the hospital in the Southern California city of Santa Ana.

The attack also shut down a street and forced the evacuation of several businesses while beekeepers removed the hive, which was estimated to contain 60,000 bees.

The bees were so aggressive that the three men had to retreat initially, but they dove back in and managed to pull the man to safety, Snyder said.

The men were stung dozens of times during the "very impressive" rescue, he said.

"They probably saved his life," Snyder said.

This is good stuff. I've been feeling more cynical, and without even trying I find two accounts of selfless acts of goodness. It gives me hope for people, and for our future. I've been stung by mass bees, it's no fun. I didn't have to go to the hospital but I remember the pain, and how it seemed to go forever without end. The poor fellow in the wheelchair wsa utterly helpless, but three people went in to certain pain to help him.

Warm fuzzies, folks. Think of this the next time you are behind a rude soccer mom and it will level the rage (some).

Definition of Hero

A 39-year-old hunter killed by a wounded grizzly bear yelled out to draw the 400-pound male bear toward him in an effort to keep it from attacking his young hunting partner, the man's family said.

"They both shot it and it kept coming," Steve Stevenson's mom, Janet Price, said on Saturday. "Steve yelled at it to try and distract it, and it swung around and took him down. It's what my son would have done automatically, for anybody."

The Lincoln County Sheriff's Office in Montana said Stevenson, of Winnemucca, Nev., died Friday after 20-year-old Ty Bell wounded what he thought was a black bear and the two men tracked it into thick cover along the Idaho-Montana border where it attacked at about 10 a.m. Friday.

I'd like to think I would do the right thing, the helpful thing. But it takes some marbles to distract a 400 lb. animal and draw it to you to save another person. Steve Stevenson did the right thing and paid the ultimate price for it. He died a hero's death, but I hope it inspires people to remember the dangers of the woods, and the humanity we bring to it.

The Texas Miracle Is A Tall Tale, Part 2

Rick Perry says he should be President because he knows how to create jobs.  But do those jobs keep Texans out of poverty?  The closer you look at it, the more Perry's "Texas Miracle" economy looks like nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

While it's true that Texas is responsible for 40% of the jobs added in the U.S. over the past two years, its poverty rate also grew faster than the national average in 2010.

Texas ranks 6th in terms of people living in poverty. Some 18.4% of Texans were impoverished in 2010, up from 17.3% a year earlier, according to Census Bureau data released this week. The national average is 15.1%.

And being poor in Texas isn't easy. The state has one of the lowest rates of spending on its citizens per capita and the highest share of those lacking health insurance. It doesn't provide a lot of support services to those in need: Relatively few collect food stamps and qualifying for cash assistance is particularly tough.

"There are two tiers in Texas," said Miguel Ferguson, associate professor of social work at University of Texas at Austin. "There are parts of Texas that are doing well. And there is a tremendous number of Texans, more than Perry has ever wanted to acknowledge, that are doing very, very poorly."

And the vast majority of those new jobs in Texas are minimum wage jobs.  The median hourly wage in Texas is $11.20, well under the $12.50 an hour that the US is averaging.  And as the article says, being poor in Texas is a pretty raw deal, with the state making major cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and other social programs.

All told, if the GOP theory that people are just on unemployment because they are lazy is true, then the combination of steep social spending cuts and high numbers of minimum wage employees should result in one of the lowest poverty rates in the country, yes?

Of course the numbers above show Texas is one of the most impoverished states in the union.  And remember, Rick Perry wants to do to all of America what he's done to Texas.

All hat, no cattle indeed.

Setting The Record Straight

Over at PoliticsUSA, Jason Easley notes the Obama administration is calling out the Village media on recent polls showing the GOP far worse off than the President.  David Axelrod is taking the lead:

 According to a CNN poll released on Wednesday, a plurality of Americans approve of the President’s jobs plan. Two thirds believe we should cut taxes for the middle class and rebuild America’s roads and bridges. Three quarters believe we need to put our teachers and first responders back to work. More Americans trust the President to handle the economy than Congressional Republicans by a margin of 9 points.

Despite what you hear in elite commentary, the President’s support among base voters and in key demographic groups has stayed strong. According to the latest NBC-WSJ poll, Democrats approve of his performance by an 81%-14% margin. That’s stronger than President Clinton’s support among Democrats at this point in his term and, according to Gallup, stronger than any Democratic President dating back to Harry Truman through this point in their presidency. 92 percent of African Americans approve. And a PPP poll out this week showed the President winning 67 percent of Hispanics against Romney and 70 percent against Perry, a higher percentage than he captured against Senator McCain in 2008.

And this is what I was talking about yesterday:  The President has low numbers, but the GOP has much, much worse metrics.  Easley continues:

The latest example of conservative bias in poll interpretation comes from a Bloomberg story that uses Hillary Clinton’s popularity to make the point that voters are feeling buyer’s remorse about electing Obama. The premise is that since Hillary Clinton is more popular, voters regret electing Obama.

The problem is that Bloomberg’s own polling data contradicts their story. While it is true that more people think the country would be better off under Hillary Clinton than when the question was asked a year ago, only 34% felt this way compared to 47% who thought the nation would be the same. This supposed buyer’s remorse was actually only a 9 point swing from results when the same question was asked in 2010.

A deeper look into the data found that tea party supporters (44%) were the group who most thought that America would be better off under Clinton. Fifty seven percent of Democrats thought the country would be the same. Tea Party supporters who probably didn’t vote for Obama think that the country would be better off under Clinton, and the majority of Democrats think that the country would be in the same shape under Clinton or Obama.

In other words, the media's selling a narrative that Obama is doomed in order to give them a better race to cover heading into 2012.   The problem is of course who the media is owned by, and that the Republican Party represent their corporate interests far more.  It's not a vacuum here, folks.

But it does suck.  We need a better media.

Going To Take A Bit

Senate Democrats are at least going to tackle the President's jobs bill.  Next month, anyway.

The Senate likely will not take up President Obama’s plan to create jobs until next month following a planned recess period, the No. 2 Democrat in the chamber said Sunday.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said the Senate would focus on a number of “related issues” to the $400 billion job-creation legislation this week. But he quickly noted on CNN that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has placed the massive jobs bill “on the calendar.”

The Senate is slated to be in recess Sept. 26-30, returning for legislative business on Oct. 3.

The most august body will deliberate this legislation after their break next week.  Sheesh.  Not that there's any real rush, we know the House will simply ignore the bill (or in case they are actually in session over the next couple weeks, just vote it down.)

Like I keep saying, millions of jobs destroyed in order to make one man lose his.


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