Free Markets, Free People
Jonah Goldberg provides a little history lesson that helps one understand why it is that politicians are now credited with the country’s economic progress or lack thereof:
The idea that presidents “run” the economy is both ludicrous and fairly novel. Before the New Deal (which in my opinion prolonged the Great Depression), the notion that presidents should or could grow the economy was outlandish. But, as the historian H. W. Brands has argued, it was JFK who really cemented the idea that the president is the project manager for a team of technicians who create economic prosperity. “Most of the problems . . . that we now face, are technical problems, are administrative problems,” he explained, and should be kept as far away from partisan politics as possible.
It may have been JFK who “cemented” the idea, but it was FDR who first sold it and the myth that grew up around him that claimed he had saved us from the Great Depression. Subsequent study of the era has yielded pretty solid evidence that, in fact, his policies failed and it was a world war that dragged us out of the Depression.
That said, it really doesn’t matter – the perception and belief has been established that the President does indeed have an effect on the economy – right or wrong. That’s just the reality of the matter. Additionally, politicians haven’t been shy about cultivating that perception. It is another means of padding the resume (if the results during their term have been good) or attacking the incumbent (if the results haven’t been very good).
The truth is politicians do have an effect – usually when they chose to intervene, the economy does worse and when they get out of the way, it does better. For the most part, they have yet to realize that, however.
But that’s not really the point I’m interested in making. All of that said, what this race boils down too is a President, who has had poor results, claiming he should be given another 4 years to do better.
The problem with that? He’s already proven he doesn’t know what he’s talking about:
President Obama, a hybrid reincarnation of Kennedy and Roosevelt according to his fans, came into office with similar misconceptions. Controlling the White House, the House, and the Senate, his team of propeller-heads insisted that if we passed exactly the stimulus they wanted, the unemployment rate would top out at 8 percent and would be well below that by now.
They waved around charts and graphs “proving” they were right, like self-declared messiahs insisting they are to be followed because the prophecies they wrote themselves say so.They got their stimulus. They were wrong.
They were dead wrong.
So the question then, given their “know-it-all” claim and their assertions that their plan would work if we’d only give them the money, why should we trust them to do better the second time around, given the fact that we’re actually worse off now than when we were in the actual recession?
As Goldberg points out, their claim is the downturn was “so much worse than anyone realized” isn’t a good excuse given the assurance with which they made their previous claim.
Why didn’t they realize it? That’s a fair question.
A more important question though is why in the world would you give another chance to someone who didn’t drive the vehicle of the economy out of the ditch as promised, but instead put it into a telephone pole?
It makes absolutely no sense.
And Obama’s plan for his coming 4 years? As best as I can discern, pretty much maintain course and tax the rich. That’s it. We’re banging along the economic bottom, unemployment is trending worse, and Obama wants to raise taxes on a single group that would pay for a total of 11 hours of government spending.
You’re asked to buy into that nonsense as solid economic policy – i.e. giving him more time.
Are you actually going to do that?
If so, and if you give this incompetent president and his clueless advisers another 4 years, you deserve everything that comes with that choice – to include a hearty “I told you so” from me if I’m still around in 2016.
Of course the spin will be that the unemployment rate has dropped to 8.1%.
Unstated is the fact that the reason the unemployment rate dropped is because 368,000 more Americans left the labor force.
In fact, the labor participation rate in the US is at its lowest level since September of 1981. Had we not seen 350,000 dropped from the labor force last month, the unemployment rate would be 8.4%. And if the labor participation rate was the same as the day Obama took office, unemployment would be at 11.2%.
96,000 jobs, while better than nothing, isn’t even close to what is necessary to get this economy going again. And don’t forget, the average monthly gain in 2011 was 153,000 a month. In fact, the U-6, which includes part-time workers looking for full time work, is at 14.7%.
I keep telling you that when you talk about jobs or lack thereof and what that means to individual Americans, it’s personal. While they may care or not care particularly who has the best record in foreign policy or whether or not abortion is something they believe in, being jobless, struggling, and/or knowing someone in the family who is, has much more of a direct effect on a potential voter than the other issues.
14.7% fall into that category with probably twice to three times that many effected by what those 14.7% are struggling with. Believe what you will about the polls right now, but if history is any indicator, Obama isn’t going to get a round 2.
Oh, and just as a reminder of the depth of the failure:
UPDATE: Meanwhile at the Ministry of Truth the “Spin-o-matic” is in overdrive:
While there is more work that remains to be done, today’s employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression.
It does? Wow … who knew? Certainly not the 350,000 who dropped out of the labor force this month. But hey, be happy, don’t worry … and ignore the chart.
Obama 2012: “I never said it would be quick or easy”
Obama 2009: “If this isn’t done it three years, we’re talking about a one term proposition”
Last night we heard, well, we heard a speech that was not so hot. Oh he said lots of stuff, but we’ve all learned over the past 3 plus years not to really trust what he says, but instead to watch what he does. He knows how to own the rhetoric, he just rarely if ever lives up to it.
He’s the “I want to have it both ways” president.
For instance – last night he said this:
We don’t think the government can solve all of our problems, but we don’t think the government is the source of all of our problems …
And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades. It’ll require common effort, shared responsibility, and the kind of bold, persistent experimentation that Franklin Roosevelt pursued during the only crisis worse than this one.
On the one hand he tells us government isn’t the answer and on the other, he claims it more government is the answer. Which should we believe?
Well in this case, the latter, given his actions (see ObamaCare which he never once mentioned last night, just like the number “8.2%.). He spent two years going the FDR route with a Democratic Congress and had he not seen his party go down in flames in 2010 and a check put on him in the House of Representatives, you can be assured he and the Democrats would have attempted to grow government even more.
This is a guy on whose watch we almost doubled the debt. Yet not a mention of that last night. Instead he tried to tell us how much he was going to take off the debt . 4 trillion he claims.
Independent experts say that my plan would cut our deficit by $4 trillion.
But another thing you learn listening to this president is to take his claims with a grain of salt. 4 trillion? Only if you believe in “creative” accounting. Jennifer Rubin, quoting the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler’s fact check of that claim points out why it is a load of rubbish:
By the administration’s math, you have nearly $3.8 trillion in spending cuts, compared to $1.5 trillion in tax increases (letting the Bush tax cuts expire for high-income Americans). Presto, $1 of tax increases for every $2.50 of spending cuts.
But virtually no serious budget analyst agreed with this accounting. The $4 trillion figure, for instance, includes counting some $1 trillion in cuts reached a year ago in budget negotiations with Congress. So no matter who is the president, the savings are already in the bank.
Moreover, the administration is also counting $848 billion in phantom savings from winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, even though the administration had long made clear those wars would end.
In other words, by projecting war spending far in the future, the administration is able to claim credit for saving money it never intended to spend. (Imagine taking credit for saving money on buying a new car every year, even though you intended to keep your car for 10 years.)
Rather than good arithmetic, independent budget analysts called the maneuver “a major budget gimmick.”
The administration also counts $800 billion in savings in debt payments (from lower deficits) as a “spending cut,” which is a dubious claim. We didn’t realize that debt payments were now considered a government program.
There are a number of other games being played, so fake money is being used to pay for real spending projects. In effect, most of Obama’s claimed deficit reduction comes from his proposed tax increases.
And, as we’ve all learned, those tax increases are but a drop in the sea of red ink this president has unleashed. His appeal to authority notwithstanding, his claim is as empty as his rhetoric.
As most have figured out, the problem isn’t about who is or isn’t “paying their fair share”, it’s about out-of-control spending. In the entire speech last night, that was not a subject that was addressed. Instead, as you saw above, we were given a real preview into what he has in store for us when he can be “more flexible”. FDR type experimentation.
What does FDR type experimentation require? More government and more spending.
Finally, if you missed this, you need to be reminded:
And yes, my plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet, because climate change is not a hoax.
That says two things. One, he plans to do the same sort of slow walking for fossil fuel he’s done this past four years while doubling down on his disastrous green policy. And part of the doubling down is undoubtedly to somehow impose a carbon tax that will help feed a ravenous spending machine.
The president who said he would return science to preeminence in decision making during his administration, is now planning on using the pseudo-science of AGW as an excuse to raise taxes on everyone. If that’s not clear, you’ve just not been paying attention.
So he’s right, there’s never been a more clear choice. Continued disaster, keeping a country on the wrong track on that track or an attempt to change that.
Will Romney be better?
He’s actually a turn-around specialist with experience and success in the field. How could he be worse?
I say we make Obama stick with the 2009 statement – for the good of the country.
It must be true. None other than Politico has noticed:
A crabby, negative campaign that has been more about misleading and marginal controversies than the major challenges facing the country? Barack Obama and Mitt Romney can both claim parenthood of this ugly child.
But there is a particular category of the 2012 race to the low road in which the two sides are not competing on equal terms: Obama and his top campaign aides have engaged far more frequently in character attacks and personal insults than the Romney campaign.
Nice to see Obama has “changed politics as we know it”.
Another promise abandoned.
So the question of the week is can the DNC via Obama reignite the “magic” of 2008 in dispirited voters?
Charlie Cook, the dean of Democratic strategists, takes a look at three demographic groups critical to Obama’s 7 point margin of victory in in 2008. While he finds one of the groups, African-Americans, still with Obama in numbers similar to 2008, two other groups are not at all showing the same enthusiasm they had then. They are voters 18-29 and Latinos. Obama leads comfortably in both demographics. However, the question is, will they vote in the numbers necessary to push Obama over the edge.
Cook says it doesn’t appear so.
In each case, the percentage who say they will definitely vote is significantly lower than it is among other demographic groups who view Obama less charitably.
Groups among those who see Obama “less charitably”, as Cook puts it, includes seniors (65 and older):
Voters ages 65 and older favor Romney by a 15-point margin, 54 percent to 39 percent, and 86 percent of those in that oldest cohort say they definitely plan to vote, compared with just 61 percent of those ages 18-29. Romney has a statistically insignificant 1-point edge (46 percent to 45 percent) among those 30 to 49 years of age, but 80 percent of them say they will definitely vote. Among the 50-to-64 age group, Romney leads by 3 points, 48 percent to 45 percent, with 86 percent of that cohort saying they will definitely vote.
Cook believes it is a matter of enthusiasm, or lack thereof:
But the study also found “consistent evidence that President Obama’s 2008 first-time voters are less supportive than other Obama voters, reflecting a decline in enthusiasm among a key voting bloc in the 2012 elections.”
Note, both polls are those of “registered voters”, however, the point is clear – enthusiasm for Obama isn’t at all near the fever pitch it was in 2008 and experts like Cook know that. As he says, there’s “consistent” evidence Obama’s support among those groups has eroded when it comes to enthusiasm. Cook also knows what has to happen for Obama to again grab the edge and win. How critical is the Democratic convention to that?
Very. It is there the spark needs to be lit again, where a message that resonates and energizes the same demographic groups that put him over the line last time.
Will it happen? Well that’s the “big question”.
And behind all these problems isn’t the “war on women”, “race” or “inequality”. It’s the economy. If, in fact, the Democrats concentrate on the diversion of the first three, the likelihood of them reenergizing their voters isn’t high. It may, however, even further energize the other side.
So you may see them tip-toe around mentions of the economy and attempt to push it off on Bush again. They’re already trying out “the Bush recession”, “the Bush economy”, etc. That’s unlikely to impress many (most polls have indicated that voters think, after 3 years, Obama owns the economy now), but it’s about all they have in that arena.
Of the two conventions, the DNC is likely to be the more interesting of the two by a long shot.
This is definitely worth two minutes:
Of course, politicians routinely repeat their stump speeches, so you could generate a video with repeated mantras for almost anyone in office. But this many, four years apart?
Remember, this guy is supposed to be a world class orator with world class intelligence. Can’t he come up with some different ways to explain himself? Hasn’t he learned from four years of being president, and gained a deeper understanding of the problems?
Four years ago, those soundbites sounded fresh, and people hearing them could believe that he meant them and would take action on them.
Recycling soundbites after four years in office doesn’t sound fresh. It sounds desperate, unoriginal, and generally sad.
Back in December, 2008, I said:
If Obama supporters don’t feel the quasi-religious fervor they felt in 2008, which I think is probably the case, then they might not give nearly as much money, or work nearly as hard for him. He’ll have to find other ways of connecting with voters to make up for that.
It’s pretty clear now that he has no other ways. He used everything he had in 2008, aided by a compliant, sycophantic media. He must confront the reality of four years in office, yet he has nothing left to offer but the same empty rhetoric and the same empty promises.
Every week, in more ways, this man sounds like a loser. With four years in office rebutting everything that was said about him in 2008, I doubt that his tingle-thighed acolytes in the media can do much about that.
(Video found via Instapundit.)
We’ve said it is a question that ought to be asked. Mitt Romney brought it up in his RNC speech. Chris Wallace ask it of David Axelrod. George Stephanopoulos posed it to David Plouffe. The answer? Well you’ll not hear a straight one from either Axelrod or Plouffe.
The question they’re avoiding?
The question Democrats didn’t want to answer head-on Sunday: Are Americans better off today than they were four years ago?
Asked the same question repeatedly host George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week,” President Barack Obama’s senior White House adviser, David Plouffe, reverted to talking points about job creation and the failings of the Bush administration.
“We were this close to a Great Depression,” Plouffe said at one point, pinching his thumb to his index finger.
Stephanopoulos cut him short.
“We’ve clearly improved, George,” Plouffe replied. “We’ve made a lot of progress from the depths of the recession … We’ve got to continue to recover.”
Of course, what Axelrod and Plouffe both understand, surely, is that it really doesn’t matter how close we got to a depression or whether or not we are actually technically recovering. What matters is how the American voter perceives the situation.
That, of course, includes the unemployed and the underemployed. It means all the households which have seen their income slip over the years (median income dropped from about $54,000 to $50,000 during the Obama years).
As I keep pointing out, economic issues become priority issues when a voter is effected by something like a downturn. When the negative effect is widespread, it is likely to be the priority issue for the majority of the voters.
So it will be interesting to see how the DNC chooses to theme its convention. Sandra Fluke being a keynote speaker should tell you much of what you need to know. My guess is it will be themed to avoid talking about the economy and the administration’s dismal record and instead, heavy on this faux “war on women” theme, with splashes of “I got Osama” and “why didn’t the Republicans talk about Afghanistan?”. Throw in a dash of “the evil rich not paying their fair share” and you’re done.
What you won’t hear, not even faintly, is whether or not we’re better off than we were 4 years ago.
Because we know we’re not.
And they know it too.
We’ve been told for months now about all the jobs that have been created by the laser-like focus on jobs that Barack and Sheriff Joe have given us.
Of course the inconvenient statistic that keeps dogging their claim is the unemployment rate.
As for the jobs themselves? Well, per the New York Times, not so hot:
While a majority of jobs lost during the downturn were in the middle range of wages, a majority of those added during the recovery have been low paying, according to a new report from the National Employment Law Project.
Lower-wage occupations, with median hourly wages of $7.69 to $13.83, accounted for 21 percent of job losses during the retraction. Since employment started expanding, they have accounted for 58 percent of all job growth.
Another of those indicators. Again something that effects voters personally. Not only are those in the 8.2% unlikely to be particularly happy about the current economic situation and those in charge, but those that are employed but earning far less than they were are unlikely to be very happy either.
Clint Eastwood is 82 and an American icon. It’s that simple. He’s sort of the John Wayne of this era. And he’s always been more “Republicanish” than the usual Hollywood crowd.
Last night he gave a speech, or a talk, or, well, whatever you’d like to characterize it as. It was both interesting and at time hilarious. That is, if you “got” what he was trying to do.
He said two things that to me are not said enough. If for no other reason, I liked his speech (which, by the way, is the only speech I’ve watched) because he said them. They are reminders that should be repeated over and over and over again.
The first is in the title. “We own this country”. Frankly, it’s time we started acting like it. Because there are those who would weaken that ownership to the point of non-existence. In fact, for the most part, that intrinsically American principle gets mostly lip service from our employees.
And yes, that’s the second line. Government and politicians are our employees. They work for us. Not the other way around, although you wouldn’t really know that the way things are going. When they’re not up to the job, we should fire them.
Anyway, Eastwood’s speech is getting the expected shredding in the press. Breitbart points out that there are already 25 plus stories (5 in Politico alone) on Eastwood’s speech. I don’t think anyone with any experience around politics and how it is covered today is the least bit surprised. They don’t like seeing “the one” they helped elect mocked.
But despite the negative claims of the media, was the speech effective? Well, I like Richard Fernandez’s take. He does a nice job of laying out why, at least to the “common folk” it was likely a hit.
It was an old man’s delivery, but overstatedly so for effect. It was a cutting delivery and for that reason delivered in low key. But for all of Clint Eastwood’s rhetorical cleverness at the Republican convention it derived its effectiveness precisely because it wasn’t one of those “I take this platform tonight with pen in hand, bearing in mind the immortal words of Clancy M. Duckworth” type orations. It wasn’t the speech of someone who was running for office.
Rather it might have come from Mr. Weller down at the corner office musing on simple things to not very important people. How it wasn’t good form to mess things up continuously. How one might lose faith in a man who made one broken promise too many. How at the end of the day everyone either did the job or quit out of decency. Even Presidents.
There was no malice in it. Just a tone of regret. But it was redolent of memory too. Of simple things a world away from the Mountaintop; of sentiments a light-year from dramatic arcs, and of ordinary happiness in a universe apart from grand bargains and high-flown rhetorical visions. They were truths that everyone who has ever worked knows but has somehow forgotten because it was so ordinary.
But they were never known to those who had never worked a real job in their lives. And that is the wonder. That they never knew them. Thus the speech was at once us versus them; it was the check in the mail against the certainties of the heart. Every true challenge is built on the bricks of memory. And there were as many challenges in the Eastwood speech as the stones we stand on.
So will it resonate? I think so. For the very reasons I outline above. Simple truths given by a man without a script, reminding us of the reality of the day. Straight talk, no apologies, no waffling, even using a symbolic device (empty chair) to make his point without having to say it.
Political professionals on the left, liberal bloggers and the press will savage it for days. But for those who saw it or will see it, my guess is they’ll pay little attention to those attacking him and more likely identify with the authenticity of the man they’ve “known” for decades. He’s one of us, they’ll think. He’s up there saying what we’d like to say if we had the podium and the ability to do it. It wasn’t polished, but it was real.
That’s what folks are looking for these days.
Frankly, it was refreshing.