Saturday, May 26, 2012

What does it tell us that Mitt Romney won't win his "home state?"

Massachusetts State House

Something I had mentioned briefly a few days ago in the context of Democrat Elizabeth Warren's chances to unseat incumbent Republican Senator Scott Brown in Massachusetts is how unpopular former Governor Mitt Romney is in the state he once led.

My point was that, if Obama ends up spanking Romney like recent polls suggest, it can only help Warren in a race that is likely to be very tight. Coattails and all that.

A few days ago, The New York Times noted a Suffolk University/7 News poll conducted last week that showed President Obama ahead of Romney by 25 points among likely voters. Romney clocked in with only 34 percent of the vote in a state where he was once governor.

Katharine Q. Quayle, of the Times, added:

The interesting point is how this fits into history. It turns out to be rare for a candidate who loses his home state to go on and win the presidency. (Some may quibble with the definition of "home state," but it generally refers to the state where the candidate lives, not where he was born.)

There are exceptions. James Polk, who was governor of Tennessee, did manage to win the presidency in 1844 despite losing Tennessee. Woodrow Wilson, who was president of Princeton and governor of New Jersey, lost the state when he won the presidency in 1916. Richard M. Nixon happened to be living in New York for a few years when he won the presidency in 1968, though he lost the state.

And then there was the obligatory presidential historian, who threw in a hypothesis:

James Thurber, a presidential historian at American University, said that presidents who lose their home states become estranged from their base. "It depends whether the individual has moved away from the core voter in their state, and certainly the story there is that Romney has," Mr. Thurber said.

It was a strange little story in the Times, actually. On the one had, it says that candidates who can't win their home states have a hard time winning the general election. Then it cites an expert who says that this may be because the candidate is no longer able, for some reason, to connect with the voters who presumably helped him get his career started and who were instrumental in helping him form his political identity.

Professor Thurber then offers the obvious point that Mitt Romney's identity has shifted more recently away from one that would be typically popular in his "home state" of Massachusetts.

In other words, Romney no longer considers himself, and is no longer packaging himself, as the kind of politician who would be popular in a liberal Northeastern state like Massachusetts. He's running as a "severe conservative." Of course he's going to lose his home state.

In other words, the theses kind of falls apart. What I think it does validate is the proposition that Romney's political identity is malleable and that he is not trusted by those who had, at least at one point, voted for him in Massachusetts and is also not fully trusted by those conservatives who more and more define the state of the Republican Party in 2012.

Yes, I know, conservative voters will get behind Romney. I just think that if enough voters don't have a strong sense of who you think you are, or don't believe you when they think you have remade yourself for the sake political expediency, you are probably going to have difficulty at the polls.

No, Romney won't take his "home state," but that may be important for more complex reasons than some people think. I guess one way to put it is that any person who was once the Governor of Massachusetts has no business running for the presidency under the GOP banner this year unless they are pathologically dishonest with themselves and the voters they are trying to court.

Sad truth is that this may define Willard Mitt Romney to a tee.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost

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Donald Trump: enemy of capitalism?

Just don't pull.
It is true that opponents running for their party's presidential nomination say some very nasty things about each other. It's well understood that one of the best ways to put together a general election campaign is to simply gather all the clips of what was said about the other party's eventual nominee by those who where vying for the job.

For example, there are great comments made by Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum's campaign about the predatory nature of Bain Capital. I posted a few of those earlier in the week.

We can add to that list comments that Donald Trump made about Bain in an interview last April with CNN's Candy Crowley.

What makes Trump's comments marginally more interesting is that they come from someone who claims to be America's uber-capitalist, thus making it difficult to suggest his critical comments on Bain Capital are attacks on capitalism itself, as Romney has been saying about President Obama.

In a clip, which I'll run below, Trump described Romney's experience at Bain in this way: "He'd buy companies, he'd close companies, he'd get rid of jobs."

In fairness, Trump may not have been critical of how Romney made his money, suggesting, as other's have, that Bain conducted it's business within the rules of the game.

All Trump is saying, and all many of the critics of Romney's time at Bain are saying, is that this type of company is not primarily interested in job creation. To suggest that Romney's work there prepares him to create jobs in America is absurd. Trump, before he became a Romney booster, was making what seems like a pretty obvious point.

Remember, this whole thing became an issue because Romney claimed, falsely, that he created over 100,000 jobs at Bain Capital. He made this an issue.

And, by the way, when the right thinks they have discovered something important by pointing out that some of Obama's campaign contributors have been in the same business as Bain Capital, private equity firms, they miss the point. Even for those who believe there is nothing wrong with this kind of endeavour, it doesn't mean that a history working in it prepares one to be a great "job creator," as Romney would like us to believe.

A presidential candidate's resume is an issue. I'm sure Republicans will agree we need to vet all candidates who aspire to the top job (though it would be better if they agreed truth should be our guide). I'd be very comfortable sticking to the facts.

The question for me is: why is Mitt Romney so uncomfortable with a thorough examination of the jobs on his resume, how he made his money, and how that might relate to his qualifications to be president?

Once upon a time, Donald Trump, socialist that he must be, thought it was important to ask.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Friday, May 25, 2012

Fair-weather Dems will be the death of us yet

By Ramona

When November 6 rolls around, American voters will have only three meaningful choices in the presidential election: We can vote for Barack Obama, we can vote for Mitt Romney, or we can opt out of voting for a president altogether. There will be other presidential candidates on the ballot, but there's not a snowball's chance they'll win. If we choose to vote for anyone other than Obama or Romney,  it'll have the same effect as not voting at all. That's the reality -- that's the way it is.  

We can say we're voting our conscience by voting against the two top contenders, but that's the kind of satisfaction that's filling but fleeting. It's here and then it's gone. One of those two is going to win, and we will have to live with the voters' choice for the next four years.

In a conversation the other day, someone -- an admitted Democrat and progressive -- said it had to be Romney, simply because Obama needed to learn a hard lesson. He has failed us so completely, he doesn't deserve another term. (What wasn't said but could be seen hanging in the air were two words guaranteed to settle any argument of that measure: "So there.") 

This person went on to ask, how much worse could it be with Romney as president, anyway? And mightn't it be better for us in 2016 if the Dems aren't rewarded this time for their transgressions. (Reminder: Democrat/progressive speaking.)

While the others involved in the conversation wouldn't necessarily go quite that far, they leaped on the bandwagon careening toward "Screw Obama and the Democrats." Boy, were they mad! They were so mad they completely forgot that screwing the Democrats meant essentially screwing themselves. Pointing that out to them only added to their anger. They were already screwed, and it was all Obama's fault. And it was all the Democrats' fault. And they will be made to pay.

I'll skip the rest of the conversation, except to add that there was some talk of giving up being a Democrat until 2016, when the opportunity to elect real progressives might present itself. (In other words, they'll be Democrats when and if being a Democrat is cool again, but don't expect them to do anything to make that happen.)

To this dedicated, life-long Democrat (yes, I've talked about this before) that's like saying they'll give up being an American until America comes to its senses. Being a member of a major political party -- one with power and clout and the potential ability to make real societal change -- is not a part-time, fair-weather pastime; it's a privilege and an obligation. It requires commitment and hard work. It requires a studious analysis of past and present performance in order to understand our role in strengthening our platform and choosing our stable of potential leaders.

It requires that we honor the heroes of our party and work to keep the fruits of their hard labor relevant, sustained, and not in vain. It requires that we vet our candidates, draw out the very best, and support them to the hilt.

As Democrats we've signed on to stand firm against our enemies -- the enemies of the people -- and form a coalition that can't be broken. It's the only way we can fight against the privateers and build our country back again. So we work to maintain our party, and when our leaders disappoint us or go against what our party stands for (not unheard of, sorry to say), we're required to set them straight. We never let up. We make them act like Democrats.

What we don't do is pick up our toys and go home. And we sure as hell don't work against our elected leaders and help the other guys win.

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Gays don't bother Tony Perkins, he just hates them and thinks they're destroying America

We know that the opponents of same-sex marriage -- the overwhelming majority of them, anyway -- are bigots, and that their theocratic arguments are ridiculous, but it's rare for the news media to put them on the spot and press them to explain and defend their views. More often, they're just given platforms from which to spew their venom.

Well, CNN's Brooke Baldwin, to her and her network's credit (at a time when CNN deservedly doesn't get much credit for anything), was having none of it yesterday, challenging leading anti-gay bigot Tony Perkins of the right-wing Family Research Council with some fairly probing questions:

-- Why do homosexuals bother you so much? (They don't, he claimed.)

-- Have you ever been to the home of a same-sex couple? (No, he hasn't.)

-- Why are we talking about curriculum in the school when this is about love and the law and the ability to get married? (He responded with "religious freedom, parental rights, public accommodation," as if it's all about allowing people the freedom to be bigots.)

Obviously, she could have gone much further, but it was impressive nonetheless.

We need much more of this, and more. Well done, Brooke.

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Behind the Ad: Obama reaches out to the LGBT community

By Richard K. Barry

Who: The Obama/Biden Campaign.

Where: Nationally.

What's going on: Okay, President Obama took too long to get to the correct side of marriage equality, but he got there. The right is trying to score points with the claim that the move was politically motived. He's the President of the United States of America. He can't breathe without having to worry about the political implications of the act.

It's become one of my best jokes: something someone did in politics was political. Imagine. 

So, yes, it was political. The fact that the right is criticizing him for political motivation means that they think this will play in his favour. Man, that was a long time coming, when granting the LGBT community equal rights would be seen as a winning issue across the country by the opposition.

We all know that, in politics, progress can be maddening slow. We know that political motivation is very complex. For example, the complexities behind the passage of civil rights legislation in the 1960s is well documented, as has been true for equal rights for women over the years. Again, if you want motivation to be pure, look somewhere other than politics. 

It makes me think, though, that when our political leaders take important stands on issues that speak to justice and equality, the most important thing we can do, as citizens, is be grateful. It doesn't happen every day, and we want to encourage this sort of thing. 

It's a very uplifting ad. You may recognize Jane Lynch as the narrator.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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The un-holy Republican triumvirate of 2012: Romney, Trump, Gingrich

Rome's First Triumvirate was made up of Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus. (It was an informal alliance and ended in civil war between the first two, with Caesar emerging victorious.)

Rome's Second Triumvirate was made up of Octavius (later Augustus), Mark Antony, and Lepidus. (It was a formal dictatorial agreement and also ended in civil war. Lepidus was exiled, Antony committed suicide after losing to Octavius, and Octavius became emperor.)

There have been many other triumvirates since then, but of course most recently there has been the Holy Triumvirate known as Rush.

These have been of varying degrees of excellence (or lack thereof). I'd probably put Rush at the pinnacle (Today's Tom Sawyer / He gets high on you / And the space he invades / He gets by on you), though if you put aside its warmongering and tyrannical inclinations that first Roman one wasn't bad. (Better than that brutal one with Robespierre, Saint-Just, and Couthon that contributed to the Thermidorian Reaction, anyway.

Anyway, if you want un-holiness in your triumvirates -- non-excellence and super-rich douchebaggery, egomania and bullying blowhardiness, with enough inner turmoil, only barely papered over, to descend into its own form of civil war -- you don't have to look any further than today's Republican Party, with the presidential campaign underway and the party rallying in lockstep behind its un-beloved nominee.

Yes, Mitt Romney, Donald Trump, and Newt Gingrich -- look away if you must! -- are actually going to be campaigning together next week, not surprisingly in the cesspool of Las Vegas.

No, this isn't a joke. (Seriously, it's not. It just seems like one.)

But what's funny, if not side-splittingly so, is that these three men hated each other once upon a time, and may still. Just last month, for example, Trump criticized Romney over the latter's profiteering vulture capitalism: "He'd buy companies. He'd close companies. He'd get rid of jobs." This is what the Obama campaign is saying, and understandably so, it's what Republicans like Gingrich and Santorum said when they were in the race, and it's what Republicans are now trying to sweep under the rug, as if none of that had ever been said.

Gingrich didn't pull any punches at all. In January, he sent out a blast to National Review's e-mail list calling Romney "a timid Massachusetts moderate" and calling on conservatives to "stand up and fight."

And of course Republicans generally tolerated Trump when he seemed to be a force in the party but generally considered him a loud-mouthed buffoon (which of course he was, and is).

But now these three are all getting along, or pretending to get along, if only to show partisan unity. (Predictably, the self-aggrandizing The Donald is talking nonsense about being the best veep choice for Mitt.) There's even this hilarious, if not really in a terribly funny way, campaign flier:

Yes, Trump as Uncle Sam. Fucking hilarious, no? Just makes you long for the greatest triumvirate of them all...

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Run for your lives! Barack Obama attended a conference on economic insecurity in 1996

There are times when political discourse in America is maddeningly ignorant. Like when someone finds an ad like this with Barack Obama's name on it and thinks they actually found something scandalous.

Here's the brief paragraph that appears with the image at BuzzFeed.

It's a reminder that the President presented himself as much more progressive during his time in Chicago. In this little-seen advertisement that ran in the Hyde Park Herald in 1996, Obama was listed on a panel sponsored by the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), University of Chicago Democrats, and University of Chicago DSA.

First of all, it's only an ad. We don't know what Barack Obama said at the event. But the implication of the breathless mention is that he appeared at an event of an organization that had "socialist" in the title, and every right thinking American knows that you are not allowed to mention socialism in a partisan political context least you be mistaken for a bomb thrower of some kind.

Here's the mission statement of the Democratic Socialists of America:

Democratic Socialists believe that both the economy and society should be run democratically -- to meet public needs, not to make profits for a few. To achieve a more just society, many structures of our government and economy must be radically transformed through greater economic and social democracy so that ordinary Americans can participate in the many decisions that affect our lives. 

Like it, don't like it. But we are talking about ideas and the democratic means to promote them and implement them.

As far as I'm concerned, socialism means so many things to so many people, it actually means very little. But the tradition carries many ideas that are not only important but that already, in so many ways, have been incorporated into the way we run the country, whether you like it or not.

Don't be afraid. It's okay. I'd be a lot more frightened of an Ayn Rand conference, which I am sure would lead to ideas that really would destroy the country.

Yes, our future president appeared at a conference where thoughts, perhaps somewhat outside the mainstream, were discussed. Can't have that. Call Glenn Beck, he'll know what to do.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Florida: a tale of two polls

Haven't had much to say about the Florida Senate race, in which Democratic Senator Bill Nelson is trying to hold on to his seat. In a Quinnipiac poll released on Thursday, according to National Journal, Nelson was found to be in a dead heat with Rep. Connie Mack (42% to 41% for Mack, which is a statistical tie in polling). Mack has a large lead over all other Republican hopefuls, so it looks like he'll be the guy for the GOP, though that is not settled.

Do those suits come in
different colours? Hope so.
In a poll done in late March, Nelson held an 8 point lead over Mack, so things are going in the wrong direction for the incumbent, at least by the lights of this poll.

Quinnipiac also found that Mitt Romney leads President Obama 47 percent to 41 percent.

But just to give you a sense of how difficult it is to read polls, here's a different take in an NBC-Marist poll, also released on Thursday, as reported by the Miami New Times.

In the Senate Race, Bill Nelson is leading 43-38, NBC found; for voters leaning towards one candidate, that's a 46-42 lead for Nelson.

And for the presidential race:

45 percent of Floridians say they'd vote for Obama, and only 40 percent say they'd vote for Romney. When you include voters who haven't quite made up there mind but are leaning one way or another, those numbers become 48 for Obama and 44 for Romney.

The difference in the two polls for the Senate race isn't that extreme, but the numbers for the presidency are quite different. Does make you wonder what accounts for the difference and how much we can trust discrete results. I guess the best we can do is either average or look for corroboration.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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The non-story of Elizabeth Warren's Native American ancestry

It is quite amazing how often the media run hard with a story only to discover that the voters really don't care much. Such, apparently, has been the case with the whole to do about whether Elizabeth Warren used assertions of Native American ancestry to benefit her career.

The story has been everywhere over the past while yet, in a new Suffolk University/7News poll, Warren has pulled into a virtual tie with Republican incumbent Scott Brown for the Massachusetts Senate seat, as reported by The Boston Globe.

At this point, Warren, the presumptive Democratic nominee, sits at 47% support, compared to 48% for Brown.

Back in February, Warren trailed Brown by a margin of 49% to 40%.

73% said they were aware of the controversy surrounding Warren's heritage, although 69% said it was not a significant story. Only 28% said they believed she was not being honest about her heritage. 45% said they do not believe Warren benefited by listing herself as Native American in a law school directory.

Suffolk's pollster, David Paleologos, said that "voters do not appear to be punishing her for it" and that "it's considered a non-story."

Seems to be much ado about nothing.

One set of numbers at the bottom of the Globe story, which might carry great significance, indicates that President Obama is crushing Mitt Romney in Massachusetts by 25 points, 59% to 34%.

In addition to what it says about how Massachusetts voters feel about their former governor, it could signal a margin of victory for Warren as that many more Democrats surge to the polls in November.

But in the long march to the general election, some stories matter and others don't. This Native American heritage thing would seem to fall into the latter category.

Now, can we get on with the discussion of issues?

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Changing minds on same-sex marriage

A few days ago, in blogging about the NAACP's endorsement of same-sex marriage, I wrote that President Obama's historic announcement would likely "accelerate the already growing support for same-sex marriage, particularly among blacks but throughout the population as a whole," and indeed that "already we are seeing the positive impacts of Obama's announcement." Well...

Public opinion continues to shift in favor of same-sex marriage, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, which also finds initial signs that President Obama's support for the idea may have changed a few minds.

Overall, 53 percent of Americans say gay marriage should be legal, hitting a high mark in support while showing a dramatic turnaround from just six years ago, when just 36 percent thought it should be legal. Thirty-nine percent, a new low, say gay marriage should be illegal.

The poll also finds that 59 percent of African Americans say they support same-sex marriage, up from an average of 41 percent in polls leading up to Obama’s announcement of his new position on the matter. Though statistically significant, it is a tentative result because of the relatively small sample of black voters in the poll.

There you go.


In related news, add Colin Powell to the right side of history. At least on this issue.

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Automakers in high gear

Do you believe this? USA Today is reporting that "automakers are pushing factories and workers to the limit to try to meet burgeoning demand for new vehicles":

Some plants are adding third work shifts. Others are piling on worker overtime and six-day weeks. Ford Motor and Chrysler Group are cutting out or reducing the annual two-week July shutdown at several plants this summer to add thousands of vehicles to their output.

"We have many plants working at maximum capacity now," says Ford spokeswoman Marcey Evans. "We're building as many [cars] as we can."

President Obama's bailout of the auto industry seems to be a good thing for jobs. And what did Romney want to do again? Oh yeah, "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt."

And the job situation?
  • Chrysler Group. The Detroit plant making the Jeep Grand Cherokee is working overtime five days a week and many Saturdays. "That's extra money in their pocket, but (there's) a toll it's taking on the workers," says spokeswoman Jodi Tinson. Chrysler is adding 1,100 jobs on a third shift to ease the problem. It also just added 1,800 workers in Belvidere, Ill., to make the new Dodge Dart. 
  • Volkswagen. Adding 800 workers will allow VW's Chattanooga, Tenn., plant to run 20 hours a day, six days a week making Passat sedan. 
  • Hyundai. A new third shift of 877 is being added at its Montgomery, Ala., plant. 
  • Toyota. More than 1,000 jobs are being added at five U.S. plants. Most plants already are using overtime and Saturdays. "In most of our plants, we're maxed out," says Toyota spokesman Mike Goss. 
Mitt Romney, the job creator? I don't think so.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Speaking of austerity

By Carl 

When you compare them head-to-head, the Obama and Romney tax plans are nearly identical:

Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate, is offering a 20 percent tax cut for everyone. Given the mood of the conservatives in the United States today, that may not surprise you. But even President Barack Obama, who is routinely described as a socialist by his opponents, is peddling a plan under which 99 percent of Americans would pay less than they did under the last Democrat in the White House, Bill Clinton.

A 1% difference really is no difference, unless you're in the one percent. But they can afford it, to be sure. But here's the interesting thing:

According to the International Monetary Fund, in 2011, among the world's 30 leading countries economically, only in New Zealand and in Japan was government revenue a lower share of gross domestic product than in the United States. Countries like Australia, Estonia, Ireland and Switzerland, which tend to favor low taxes and a small state, have government revenue that accounts for more of G.D.P. than does the United States. 

The Internal Revenue Service is relatively restrained, too, compared with recent history. In 1945, at the close of World War II, federal tax receipts were 20.4 percent of G.D.P. (expenditures, by the way, were 41.9 percent, putting the federal budget deficit at 21.5 percent, compared with 8.7 percent in 2011). In 1952, the year the Republican Dwight Eisenhower was elected president, federal government revenue was 19 percent of G.D.P. In 1988, the last year of Ronald Reagan's transformational conservative presidency, the federal tax take was 18.2 percent of G.D.P.

Compare those figures with that of today, when a Democrat is in the White House, nearly half of Americans think their taxes are too high, and both parties are promising to keep taxes low for all, or, in the case of the Democrats, 99 percent of Americans: In 2011, government revenue was 15.4 percent of G.D.P., lower than it was at any time during the Eisenhower or Reagan eras. Like anorexics, who think they are grossly fat when they are very thin, the American body politic is suffering from a national version of body dysmorphia, with nearly half the country believing taxes are high, when they are comparatively and historically low. 

So everyone agrees that taxes are too high, except history.

Obama's plan at least has the weight of recent history on his side: when Bill Clinton lowered taxes on the middle class and poor but raised them (a whole 4%!) on the rich, the economy skyrocketed from the doldrums of the first Bush recession to have the greatest growth in human history AND created budget surpluses, something even the so-called "Reagan boom" -- which only happened after he raised the taxes he had lowered far too much -- could not achieve.

Indeed, Clinton's economy was so great that we very nearly paid off the national debt. Had those policies continued in place, had the three Bush tax cuts not been passed, and two insignificant little gnats not been invaded for few rational reasons -- meaning Bush would have taken the dire warnings the Clinton policy experts levelled seriously and prevented September 11 -- we might still be on the path to prosperity even now.

See, here's the thing: to look at the economy now and forget those eight years of mishandling is to exam why a bridge collapsed without looking at the corroded metal braces. You might come up with some logical explanation-- too much weight, unsafe drivers-- but in the end, you've missed the point entirely.

We were in the midst of a mild recession when George W Bush took office. After the dot-com bubble burst, we had growth of less than 2% and finally dipped into a contraction as Bush took office. But by that summer, we had nearly reversed that and started growing slowly.

And then we double-dipped in 2002. Despite the tax cuts. Despite the spending on ramping up for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Despite the private sector panicking that al Qaeda was looking over our shoulders for an opportunity to strike again.

Indeed, it wasn't until the third quarter of 2003 that the U.S. began a recovery.

We were almost out in 2001! And you'd think that all the economic stimulus of three tax cuts and two wars and all the homeland security spending -- on the scale of billions when you include private and public sector spending -- would have pulled an already recovering economy straight back up.

And you'd be wrong. Indeed, and here's where we get to this current recession, it turns out that the prime motivator in ending the Bush recession was the move by the Federal Reserve to drop its discount rater (the federal funds rate) from 1.75% to 1%, in steps. This dropped the prime rate to about 4% or so (it generally runs three percent above the federal funds rate, which is the overnight rate that banks can borrow money from each other), and then came all those mortgage refinancings.

Which begat more refinancings. Which begat the "ownership society" of Bush's second term. Which begat subprime mortgages. Which begat derivates of CDOs and CMOs and all those lovely acronyms to represent meaningless valueless gambles disguised as "investments."

And so here we are, still talking about lowering taxes when what we need is a little fiscal discipline and a little fat over the meat on the bone. We need to raise government revenue and have that government spend it to benefit the greater good of all us, get rid of the rust and make the bridge stronger so that we don't grit our teeth and grip the wheel tightly each time we drive over it.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Obama needs to energize Latino voters

By Richard K. Barry

Here are some more numbers on President Obama's commanding lead over Mitt Romney with Latino voters, as reported by MSNBC, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo poll of Latino respondents:

  • Obama has a 34-point lead over Romney among registered Latino voters, 61 to 27 percent.
  • Obama's approval rating among all Latino adults is 61 percent, compared to 48 percent of all Americans in the new NBC/WSJ poll.
  • Obama's positive/negative score among Latinos is 58/23 percent. Romney's is 26/35 percent.
  • 40 percent of Latino voters think the country is headed on the right direction, compared to 33 percent of all Americans.
The only dark cloud for Obama is that far fewer Latino voters say they are highly interested in the upcoming election, only 68 percent, compared to 81 percent of all voters who express a high degree of interest.

That's no small problem, but at least Obama knows what he has to do.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Vote efficiency in the Electoral College system, or why national polls only tell part of the story

In the news today were stories that Obama did poorly in Democratic primaries in the traditionally conservative states of Kentucky and Arkansas. In Kentucky he took just 57.9% of the vote to 42% who cast a vote for "uncommitted." In Arkansas, with 70% tallied he was beating some no-name by a 59% to 41% margin. The challenger promised to repeal Obamacare.

These are states that McCain took easily in 2008, and in which Hillary Clinton won in the Democratic primaries that year.

They are conservative states, the primary was meaningless so only those with an axe to grind would be highly motivated and Obama has never felt the love in this part of America anyway.

What is interesting about this, though, is the concept of "vote efficiency" that it brings too mind.

Even though national polls have Romney and Obama within the margin of error, it is possible that in many states that Romney takes in November, he will win by a large margin. It is also possible that in many states Obama wins, Romney will be more competitive.

In an Electoral College system which is mostly "winner-take-all" on a state-by-basis, Obama's vote is far more likely to be efficient, meaning he can win more states with less national vote.

Put a different way, 50% plus one of the vote wins you all electoral votes in each state (mostly). And every vote you get over 50% plus one is, in a sense, wasted. Similarly, every vote you get in an attempt that falls short of 50% plus one, is a wasted vote.

Take all the votes in Kentucky and Arkansas. I don't care.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Number one GOP talking point: Say you think Romney can win (say it like you believe it)

Did someone say central casting?
Both amateurs and professionals who write about politics struggle every day with what to write next. I have to say that an article today at the website Politico is both an exercise in the obvious and a little kowtowing to political spin from the right. But material is material.

In a piece with the title "GOP Discovers That Mitt Romney Could Win," Jonathan Martin provides a bunch of comments from high-profile Republicans that, by golly, Mitt Romney could win this thing after all.

They talk about poll numbers within the margin of error, a disappearing fund-raising advantage by the Obama campaign and a still uncertain economy. They cite problems they think Obama is having with his core message that Romney is a bad capitalist. They cite what they take to be recent evidence that Romney is running a more disciplined campaign. They cite the extent to which party rank-and-file are coming to Romney.

In essence, they cite the "big news" that experienced Republican campaigners have come to the realization Mitt Romney is their nominee and it will do no good for them to express any doubt that he could possibly win.

From where I sit, none of the empirically verifiable events that have taken place since Romney became the nominee are a surprise. And none of the pure spin from GOP operatives, who all got the same briefing book, is unexpected.

Now, anyone who has any political experience who thinks he or she can predict electoral results six months out with any degree of certainty is a fool.

Romney has some strengths, certainly. Obama has his, like more paths to 270 electoral votes. So, of course either could win.

The one thing that stood out in the article was the "half in jest" suggestion by some Republicans that "they'd be better off with Romney in a bunker for the duration of the campaign."

The general election campaign has started in earnest. The GOP has stopped attacking itself and is now focusing all its efforts on Obama. And Romney is now able to keep better control of his campaign because the "shooting war" with Obama has not yet started, the "mano a mano" has not yet begun, but it will. When it does, Romney will have to show himself, and if the GOP nomination taught us anything it is that the more people see of Romney, the less they like him. And you can't run for president from a bunker.

Romney was able to beat a bunch of losers to get the nomination. When things get real, I'd still put my money on Barack Obama.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Liberals are fapping

By Carl 

We probably shouldn't be, because something similar could happen to Democrats, eventually: 

Washington (CNN) -- When presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney appears before Latino small-business owners in Washington on Wednesday, he'll address a group whose explosive birth rates foreshadow a seismic political shift in GOP strongholds in the Deep South and Southwest. 

"The Republicans' problem is their voters are white, aging and dying off," said David Bositis, a senior research associate at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, who studies minority political engagement.

"There will come a time when they suffer catastrophic losses with the realization of the population changes." 

Remember, there was a time, in my lifetime so not too long ago, when Republicans were the liberal party and Democrats were the racist bigots. Had that dynamic not changed, a lot of us would be battling each other right now, defending which party actually was the more liberal.

Hard to believe, I know.

Diversity is a good thing. It generates new ideas and solutions. Look at the Republicans. Their entire platform can be summed up in four words: tax cuts for the rich. This is the same message they've run on since 1980 and on the whole it's been an epic failure, dramatically highlighted by the fact that when Democrats have managed to reverse some of those deep cuts and given them to the middle class, the economy has soared.

The problem with diversity is precisely what the DNC is facing right now. You have Blue Dog Dems and progressive Dems and DLC centrist Dems and the struggle for the soul of the party is going on right now. Our leadership, incluing President Obama but more in Congress (Pelosi and Reid) tout modestly progressive policies with the occasional nod towards populism, but they can't even get the flanks of their party to line up behind them.

It makes one long for the days of an LBJ or even Tip O'Neill, a day when the rank-and-file would join in on a vote.

Republicans have demonstrated that kind of party unity until very recently. The rise of the Teabaggers has seen that unity torn asunder under what amounts to loyalty oaths (Norquist's tax pledges) and threats to primary mavericks like Orrin Hatch and the recently deposed Richard Lugar.

Ironically, it is this demographic shift that makes these pledges and threats untenable. Sure, you might retain a Republican seat but if the electorate around him is shifting to a more Democratic-favorable population, then you lose the long-term battle that a moderate might win (I know, calling Hatch and Lugar "moderates" is a little like calling peanut butter "lubricating").

Even more ironically, these demographic shifts are occuring in the very states that have gone out of their way to make themselves a) insular and b) refuges for businesses.

That's right. It is the right-to-work states that have seen the largest influx of Latinos, meaning even more job pressure on the residents there. Those Latinos will work even cheaper than the poor white folks, so I expect to see "white-to-work" laws being rammed down the throats of the legislatures in those regions.

After all, look at what happened in Georgia and Alabama when anti-immigrant legislation was passed: crops practically withered and died until Hispanic groups and local farmers pushed back against the legislation.

Really. When the kindest thing your entire party can say about Hispanics is that they'll "self-deport" in the face of challenging economic times (Romney), you've jumped the shark on the entire demographic.

Latinos comprised the fastest-growing demographic in the south and are directly responsible for giving many if not most of the new Congressional seats apportioned to states like Texas and Georgia. Eventually, those groups will demand the political power that comes with this gift. Republicans have done yeoman work to make sure they won't be the party to benefit.

I said that diversity was a good thing, generally, and that means we really need a Republican party, too, but we need one that is vital and vibrant, generating ideas and solutions, not the same old failed mantras parrotted for decades.

Thing is, if the Republicans manage to throw themselves on the sword of self-oblivion, what rises up to take its place may not be much better. 

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What's the matter with Connecticut?

Things could get ugly-er.
Did Republicans in Connecticut completely forget the 2010 election? Based on their decision to endorse former professional wrestling promoter Linda McMahon to once again carry the banner for the state GOP as it attempts to capture the seat Joe Lieberman is vacating, it would seem that way.

You may recall that in 2010, in a very red year, McMahon spent $50 million of her own money to win a Connecticut Senate seat and still got beat by Richard Blumenthal. 
Last Friday, Connecticut Republicans had to choose between a well-known moderate, former Congressman Chris Shays, and McMahon, and they chose McMahon by 2-1.

The problem for the GOP is that a Quinnipiac poll shows Chris Shays in a dead heat with Democrat Chris Murphy, the likely Democratic nominee, while no other Republican is competitive.

Shays has filed papers to force a primary, which he is entitled to do based on his showing at the convention, though McMahon has understandably encouraged him to drop out and get behind her. The primary will take place on August 14.

McMahon could probably outspend God, and may be able to get past Shays, but 2012 is not going to be like 2010. She must love spending stacks of money in ultimately losing causes.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Barack and Bill, on our stage tonight

I just love this guy!

Politicians are just not normal. They're not. The fact that two people who otherwise cannot stand to be in same state but find a way to smile and hold hands and pat each other on the back when duty calls proves the point. It's not that we haven't all had to work with people we dislike, but how many of us have had to hug and kiss people we don't like on stage or on camera? Think about that.

Now, I have no idea how Bill Clinton and Barack Obama really feel about each other, but I got one of those e-mails today from "my friend Barack" claiming that Bill is just about the greatest statesman and political leader this country has ever had, and that Barack decided to run for the presidency to continue Bill's legacy. As I recall, Bill had other thoughts about who should continue his legacy, but I digress.

Now they, Bill and Barack, are campaigning together and we all remember how tense things got in 2008. Did they ever get tense.

This is not big news. It's just politics. But, like I said, politicians are not like other people. They are not normal.

We know this, but it still amazes.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Behind the Ad: The GOP's greatest challenge -- Obama's popularity

Who: GPS Crossroads (Karl Rove).

Where: 10 swing states starting May 23.

What's going on: Whatever your partisan leanings, if you are fascinated by how politics is done, you may find the latest ads by GPS Crossroads, Karl Rove's group, most interesting.

The approach is to be careful in how they characterize President Obama, not to be too negative. As the New York Times story suggests, GOP focus-group testing found that a lot of independent voters don't what to see attacks on Obama's integrity or suggestions that he is a crazy radical. Many of them voted for him and they still like him. They don't buy that stuff.

What these ads try to do, rather, is to convey the message that President Obama hasn't delivered on his promises, that he hasn't lived up to advanced billing. It is almost as if the ads want to suggest an air of sadness that Obama has been a disappointment and that it might be time to give someone else a chance.

Of course, being a Karl Rove production, the punch line is built on a lie that the economy has gotten worse since it crashed under George W. Bush but, hey, we're talking about Karl Rove here.

What's interesting about this is the problem conservatives are having coming directly at Obama. And the other half of this is, you'll recall, the Republican argument that Romney may not be a rock star, but at least he's a good financial manager. That's been their claim, anyway, and one they are likely to stick with through the fall.

Everything hinges on getting people to believe the lie that Obama made things worse and the equally absurd claim that Romney has a record of job creation. We'll see how that works.

What I find most interesting is that Republicans are genuinely afraid of that thousand watt personality of Barack Obama's and are trying to do whatever they can to mitigate its power when everyone really starts to pay attention.

As I imagine Romney and Obama on the same stage during the debates, for example, I only have one thought. It's not going to work.

But at least we know that the Republicans know what their greatest challenge will be.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Romney's lousy record on job creation in Massachusetts

 What's up with the hard questions?
I'm not quite sure what's going on at Fox News, but I'll take it. Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace came at House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) pretty hard on the question of Mitt Romney's record on job creation as governor of Massachusetts.

This is what Wallace asked Ryan:

You know, it's not just a question of vision, it's also a question of record because these men have served in office and have records in office. So, let's take a look at that.

Mitt Romney was governor of Massachusetts for four years, Congressman Ryan. And during that time, Massachusetts ranked 47th of the 50 states in job creation. The only reason the unemployment rate went down [was] because so many people left the work force -- more than any other state in the country except Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. Is that a record to be proud of?

As Steve Benen at the Maddow Blog added:

When Ryan pushed back and said the unemployment rate in Massachusetts went down during Romney's one term, Wallace again reminded him, "If I may, sir, again over the four years, 47th in job creation and unemployment rate went down because so many people were leaving the state."

Ryan mumbled something after that, but had very little with which to respond.

Unlike Cory Booker, I'm pretty comfortable criticizing Romney's record of leveraged buyouts and mass layoffs. When we get tired of that, I suggest we look at Romney's record as Governor, his only political experience.

As Jon Huntsman, current Romney endorser, said repeatedly throughout the nomination campaign: "The reality is Mitt Romney's record on job creation was abysmal by any standard."

The Republicans' entire campaign narrative is based on their claim that their guy knows how to create jobs. The facts would suggest otherwise.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Romney at Bain: A question worth asking

Just not anything about Bain Capital...
or my time as Governor of Massachusetts...
or George W. Bush. I really hate that one. 

Yes, a lot of Democrats are too close to Wall Street, and I don't just mean geographically. Being openly critical of the financial sector is not the best way to nurture a promising political career in the New York City Tri-State area.

In some ways, Cory Booker's defense of private equity firms points to the difficulty of those of us on the left who side with the Democratic Party as the least bad alternative. Barack Obama is not a socialist and he's only on the left in that weird world of American politics where everything is so skewed right that a centrist can be called a radical. Remember, Wall Street money is deserting Obama, which means they used to be with him.

But I agree with Obama's critique of private equity firms, and also agree that they are a good way to attack Romney as a heartless prick. But I also think that if Obama had his way, he'd rather not have to attack big money in America. I don't think his natural instincts are to do that and, maybe, Cory Booker, as his "surrogate," made comments that were a kind of Freudian reflection of that fact.

Having said this, it seems odd to be making too much of Booker's statements given what other Republicans have said about Romney's work on behalf of a bunch of rich people.

Daily Kos tracked down some illustrative quotes -- to wit:

  • "[They] loot companies, leave behind broken families, broken towns." - Newt Gingrich
  • "It's the ultimate insult when Mitt Romney comes to South Carolina and tells you he feels your pain - because he caused it. [...] There is something inherently wrong when getting rich off failure and sticking it to someone else is how you do business. I happen to think that is indefensible." - Rick Perry
  • "Governor Romney has claimed to have created over 100,000 jobs at Bain, and people are wanting to know: is there proof of that claim? And was it U.S. jobs created for United States Citizens? And that's fair. that's not negative campaigning." - Sarah Palin
  • "Governor Romney enjoys firing people." - Jon Huntsman
  • "While Mitt Romney was at Bain Capital, almost one in every four companies they were involved with went bankrupt or went out of business." - John Brabender, Rick Santorum campaign manager.
So, fine, the relationship of America's two main political parties to finance capital is complex. Sometimes Democrats line up with big money, sometimes Republicans play the economic populist card. Like I've said before, they are all capitalist and you can't be a capitalist while maintaining an antagonistic relationship to capital, at least not for long.

All I want to know is, and I think Obama is right to ask this, does Romney's work at Bain provide the kind of experience that would be useful to a president, or is it exactly the wrong kind of experience? Some of Romney's colleagues in the GOP don't seem to think much of it. At the very least, the question is worth exploring.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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Is not aging anti-evolution?

By Carl 

That's the pretty interesting, if simplistic, question posed by The Atlantic:

Not everyone is thrilled by the prospect of radical life extension. As funding for anti-aging research has exploded, bioethicists have expressed alarm, reasoning that extreme longevity could have disastrous social effects. Some argue that longer life spans will mean stiffer competition for resources, or a wider gap between rich and poor. Others insist that the aging process is important because it gives death a kind of time release effect, which eases us into accepting it. These concerns are well founded. Life spans of several hundred years are bound to be socially disruptive in one way or another; if we're headed in that direction, it's best to start teasing out the difficulties now.

But there is another, deeper argument against life extension -- the argument from evolution. Its proponents suggest that we ought to avoid tinkering with any human trait borne of natural selection. Doing so, they argue, could have unforeseen consequences, especially given that natural selection has such a sterling engineering track record. If our bodies grow old and die, the thinking goes, then there must be a good reason, even if we don't understand it yet. Nonsense, says Bennett Foddy, a philosopher (and flash game developer!) from Oxford, who has written extensively about the ethics of life extension. "We think about aging as being a natural human trait, and it is natural, but it's not something that was selected for because it was beneficial to us." Foddy told me. "There is this misconception that everything evolution provides is beneficial to individuals and that's not correct." 

The short answer to this silly conundrum is, evolution is designed for survival of the fittest, which implies adaptation not talent or ability. If our intelligence is the key to unlocking almost-permanent longevity -- I figure I have a 60% chance of living to 200, and a 10% chance of immortality -- then evolution is not going to make a value judgement on this. It's either going to encourage it or discourage it through the interplay of evolutionary factors.

For instance, if it's an inefficient strategy for the population as a whole, then we'll either not achieve it or we'll find the cons to achieving it more than outweigh the pros. Whether we pay attention to those signals is irrelevant: if another species finds a way to become the dominant one on this planet or we begin to die off, evolution will have had its say.

However, the argument of a value judgement as to whether extreme longevity is a good thing, a wholly human argument, is a good one to have.

One thing extreme longevity could bring about, which is implied but unstated in the article, is a radical shift in our attitudes towards money: with more and more people outliving their money -- something that is already happening -- society will be forced to make decisions about the structure of private wealth. Indeed, the backlash we see now against the strawman of the "welfare state" raised by conservatives is the expression of a desperate fear that they, too, will not have enough to live off indefinitely.

One thing evolution encourages is the preying of the strong upon the weak.

It's not that aging is a bad thing, but you have to take a long view to see it as a good thing: aging allows diversity in a slow-growing population and a more efficiant allocation of resources. If I'm 80, my gene-pool is draining, and I am less productive than a 30 year old (right now -- I'll get to a non-aging scenario in a second). Less productive from a conception orientation (I'm less attractive to women who would be breeding), less productive from a work perspective (I tire easily and lose focus), and less productive in a child-rearing scenario.

I'm old, to put the point bluntly. But notice the positives to the population as a whole. In removing my breeding capacity, a younger pool of breeding males can step up, males with genetic material significantly different from mine and this adds to the long-term survival of the species. I haven't been exposed to many of the challenges these men and their ancestors have, so my genes may not be the best defense against, say, a bird flu.

Not aging changes this dynamic substantially. Suddenly, I can be competitive with younger men, particularly if I keep my boyish good looks and athletic stamina.

Suddenly, my gene pool is replenished.

On a societal basis, this puts pressure on the next generations. From an evolutionary basis, pressure leads to adaptation as those younger men develop strategies to circumvent whatever competitive advantages I might have (experience, for one thing, confidence, there are any number I might accrue over time). And while it's hard to prove that my not aging is a bad thing, we can infer from the evidence that aging is a good thing for the population that not aging may not be a good thing, too.

Since we're talking about time frames that span millenia if not eons, it would be hard to say. And that's assuming non-aging isn't ultimately fatal to the species first.

From my perspective, I'd prefer not to die: the world is too interesting and I want to see how some things play out. Uncertainty principle suggests that by seeing them play out, I immediately alter how they play out.

And that's the interesting question from this silly scenario.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)


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