Free Markets, Free People

Republicans


Democratic Senator Ron Wyden tries to delink himself from Ryan Medicare plan

To date it’s been an attempt that mostly gets fussy about word usage, but my guess is it will get more pointed:

Gov. Romney is talking nonsense. Bipartisanship requires that you not make up the facts. I did not ‘co-lead a piece of legislation.’ I wrote a policy paper on options for Medicare. Several months after the paper came out I spoke and voted against the Medicare provisions in the Ryan budget. Governor Romney needs to learn you don’t protect seniors by makings things up, and his comments today sure won’t help promote real bipartisanship.

That’s obviously in reaction to a statement by Romney in which he talked about legislation, not a policy paper.

So Wyden is right, the quote is incorrect.

But Wyden is being a bit disingenuous too.  You don’t vote for parts of a budget so claiming you voted “against the Medicare provisions” of a budget are a bit of nonsense as well.  Democrats voted against the entire Ryan budget, the Medicare provisions being only  a part of that.

Even Think Progress has some problems with the attempted delinking driven by the inconvenient politics of having a Democratic Senator’s name on a plan that Democrats have chosen to mischaracterize and demonize:

The plan Sen. Wyden co-authored with Ryan does bear a striking resemblance to the proposed Medicare changes in Ryan’s latest budget for the House GOP. Both keep traditional Medicare as a kind of public option, in an exchange where it would compete with private plans offering insurance to seniors. The government would give seniors support for purchasing these plans, and that support would be benchmarked to the cost of the second-least expensive plan. The plans would also be prohibited from discriminating based on pre-existing conditions.

Where they begin to differ is Paul supports more market based solutions while Wyden wants government based solutions.

But this sort of linkage is inconvenient when you’re claiming the GOP ticket is “trying to end Medicare as we know it” (even though it is ObamaCare which is pulling $700+ billion out of Medicare).  Avik Roy has the “bottom line” on that meme:

The bottom line: if Romney and Ryan leave you the option to remain in the 1965-vintage, fee-for-service, traditional Medicare program, and you claim that Medicare has “ended as we know it,” what you’ve really ended is the English language as we know it.

Pretty much. 

The point?  Ron Wyden did indeed “co-author” a Medicare plan with Paul Ryan.  There’s no question about that.  And it was indeed a bipartisan plan, by definition.  In fact the paper is entitled “Bipartisan Options for the Future” and lists both Wyden and Ryan as the authors.

Finally, their plan contains this paragraph:

We are a Democrat and Republican; a Senator and a Representative; senior members of our respective Budget Committees; and members of the committees that have jurisdiction over Medicare and health care costs. As budgeteers, we understand the difficulty presented by demographic changes over the next several decades. As members with policy oversight, we recognize and encourage the potential for innovation to improve care and hold down costs. And most important, as representatives of hardworking Americans in Oregon and Southern Wisconsin, we realize our absolute responsibility to preserve the Medicare guarantee of affordable, accessible health care for every one of the nation’s seniors for decades to come.

Sounds like a pretty bipartisan effort to me.

Here’s the problem for the Democrats.  They need badly to demonize Paul Ryan as an extremist who is out to push granny over the Medicare cliff and end Medicare as we know it.  That’s because “Medicscaring” seniors is a tried and true method of gaining votes, and Democrats know it.  They’ve deployed it many times in the past.

And bipartisan cooperation?  No way, no how, can’t let that sort of thing become public knowledge when you have an active campaign beginning to label Ryan as an extremist ideologue.

But the facts don’t support that sort of branding campaign.  Not only has Ryan not attempted in any form or fashion to end Medicare, he’s teamed up with a liberal Senator to put forward a plan to actually save it (even while the loudest critic is pulling that $700+ billion from the program via ObamaCare) and make it sustainable.

How inconvenient. 

That is why Wyden is trying his best to delink from Ryan. And you can imagine from whence the pressure to do so is coming.  But it’s a hard sale to make when his name is clearly associated with Ryan’s on a plan he claimed will “preserve the Medicare guarantee of affordable, accessible health care for every one of the nation’s seniors for decades to come”, isn’t it?

Not that it will stop them from trying.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Facebook: QandO


Paul Ryan and what his nomination means

It means the Democrats are facing a strong ticket with the announcement of Ryan as the VP nominee.  It also finally focuses the ticket where most Americans want it focused – the budget, the size of government, the economy and jobs.

For Mitt Romney the selection of Paul Ryan is about as strong a choice as he could have made.  Ryan has an intricate knowledge of the budget and budget process in Congress.  That will be a critical skill in the next four years for an administration to have.   In effect, Ryan will become the defacto administration budget expert (dare we say “czar”) for the Romney administration and give that administration a level of expertise unknown to most past administrations.

Romney is a “turn around” guy.  He knows how to turn ailing businesses and the like around.  The combination of Ryan and Romney is and should be compelling to most Americans.

For critics of Romney’s “conservatism”, the addition of Ryan should cool their angst and shore up the conservative base.  Ryan is more of a Tea Party conservative (i.e. fixed on fiscal conservatism rather than social conservatism) but that is the sort of conservatism which is going to attract the most non affiliated voters. 

Our fiscal house is broken and in bad need of repair.  This is a team with all the credentials to do that, or at least begin a positive effort to do that (I doubt that it can be fixed in 4 years, but a lot of progress can be made in that time).

And, of course, that means trouble for the Obama administration, whose record is anything but compelling and whose leadership has been anything but inspiring.  Ryan, therefore, must be “destroyed” in a political sense.   So in the name of “vetting” – something that was never really done for our present president  — we will see all sorts of wild stories and opinions flying around concerning the new VP pick.

I’m not sure any of that will matter much though.  Why?

Well, there are indicators seem to be pointing out a momentum shift that  polls aren’t showing yet (we discuss that on the podcast).  A half-full fundraiser for Obama in his home town of Chicago vs an enthusiastic crowd who packed a Romney/Ryan rally at a furniture store in North Carolina.  Or the turnout at this event:

Earlier in the day, Romney and Ryan campaigned at the NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville, N.C. The Hickory Daily Record reported that the two were “greeted by thousands.” A Romney campaign official told TheDC that an estimated 4,700 people showed up, with 1,700 people inside the event and 3,000 outside.

If the Obama campaign isn’t worried, then they are even more insulated from reality than I thought.

Fundraising is another indicator that all is not well in Obamaland.  Romney, even without Ryan as the VP pick, has been consistently bringing in more campaign donations.  And not by a little.  He’s been crushing the Obama effort.  That may be the truest indication to this point of how far the Obama brand has fallen. Donors don’t like to back losers.  Indications are that the choice of Ryan will only exacerbate that problem for Obama.

So Paul Ryan means even more trouble for an already troubled Obama campaign.

What should we expect, then?  A full-court press by the left and as dirty a campaign as you’ve ever witnessed.  The Obama campaign and its media surrogates and pundits are going to be in attack mode from now on.  In fact, just peruse some of the stuff already out there today.  Expect it to get worse.  The “Palin treatment” is called for because … because it worked the last time.  I would guess, however, that Ryan may be equal to the task ahead and perhaps turn that treatment back on those who attempt to apply it.

In the meantime, we have the opportunity over the next few months to actually discuss the most important and compelling issues facing us as a nation – if the media will let us.  Unfortunately, they usually focus on the horse race after picking sides.  And we all know whose side they were shamelessly on last go-round.

So I expect stories like this vs. stories about budget, spending and employment.  I expect, given the abysmal Obama record to see continued attempts by media surrogates to distract rather than inform or discuss relevant and important topics.

But then, that seems to be American politics today.  What’s surprising is how the left has managed, since the 2010 election, to pretend they never happened and that they’re back in the happy days of 2008 again.  I see a lot of “whistling past the graveyard” among them.  I see them and the media ignoring some pretty bold indicators that they’re in deep trouble.  And I hope they continue to do so.

Look, an economy that’s banging along the bottom of a recessionary dip and an unemployment rate seemingly stuck at about the 8% mark (or 14% if you’re looking at the U6) are not something any president wants to run on and, they’re certainly not something I’d assume he’d be keen about discussing.  

If Romney/Ryan will focus and force the debate about those issues without letting the Obama campaign successfully distract and divert that debate, I think they win.  And I think Paul Ryan is a strong enough personality to make that happen. 

That is what his nomination means.  And that means big trouble for Obama.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


There is no voter fraud, except when there is voter fraud

Like in the MN Senate race that put Al Franken in office and provided Senate Democrats with their 60th vote.

Byron York provides the short version of the story and what was found subsequently:

In the ’08 campaign, Republican Sen. Norm Coleman was running for re-election against Democrat Al Franken. It was impossibly close; on the morning after the election, after 2.9 million people had voted, Coleman led Franken by 725 votes.

Franken and his Democratic allies dispatched an army of lawyers to challenge the results. After the first canvass, Coleman’s lead was down to 206 votes. That was followed by months of wrangling and litigation. In the end, Franken was declared the winner by 312 votes. He was sworn into office in July 2009, eight months after the election.

During the controversy a conservative group called Minnesota Majority began to look into claims of voter fraud. Comparing criminal records with voting rolls, the group identified 1,099 felons — all ineligible to vote — who had voted in the Franken-Coleman race.

And what has happened since?

And so far, Fund and von Spakovsky report, 177 people have been convicted — not just accused, but convicted — of voting fraudulently in the Senate race. Another 66 are awaiting trial. "The numbers aren’t greater," the authors say, "because the standard for convicting someone of voter fraud in Minnesota is that they must have been both ineligible, and ‘knowingly’ voted unlawfully." The accused can get off by claiming not to have known they did anything wrong.

Still, that’s a total of 243 people either convicted of voter fraud or awaiting trial in an election that was decided by 312 votes.

And, of course, the probability is these felons absolutely knew they were breaking the law and fraudulently voted anyway.

Obviously making a connection between them and Democrats is likely impossible, but it does point to something that the left consistently denies – the existence of voter fraud.

It exists.  Denying it exists, as the left does, only damages their credibility. 

Many times it is the system itself which enables fraud to be carried out.  Incompetence and inefficiency within government agencies charged with supervising voting are as much the problem as the frauds.  For instance:

The Houston-based True the Vote said it has identified 160 counties across 19 states with more registered voters on their rolls than eligible live voters. This chart highlights the 19 states and how they voted in the 2008 election.

Keeping the voter roles current and ensuring all registered voters are eligible would seem to be a primary mission of any state’s voter bureaucracy, wouldn’t it?

Yet what did we recently see – the Obama DoJ go after the state of Florida for doing its job and purging it’s voter roles of the dead and ineligible.  You’d think that they’d encourage such an action because it helps guarantee the integrity of the voting system.

But instead, it tried to stop it.

There is all sorts of fraud.  That like York points out.  That like this case in Miami:

It’s a shady world, as the case of 56-year-old Deisy Cabrera in Hialeah shows.

Cabrera was charged Wednesday with a state felony for allegedly forging an elderly woman’s signature on an absentee ballot, and with two counts of violating a Miami-Dade County ordinance banning the possession of more than two filled-out absentee ballots.

Much of the fraud takes place within the early voting venues.  As the above case illustrates, preying on nursing home residents is only one of many ways fraudulent ballots are cast.

However the Democrats contend that voter ID laws are a means of stopping a problem that doesn’t exist.  They claim there is very little if any fraud to be found in same day voting.  Of course that’s hard to substantiate when voter roles are larger than the pool of eligible voters in many areas and no on is asked to prove who they are. 

The other complaint is that voter ID laws “disenfranchise” minorities and the poor.  Yet Georgia’s experience directly contradicts that claim with minority and overall voter turnout increasing in the elections following the implementation of a voter ID law.

Bottom line: the integrity of the voting system is paramount to instilling confidence in the citizenry that their voices are being truly heard.   If ever there seemed to an issue that should be truly bi-partisan, this would be it.  Yet there are very clear battle-lines drawn with one side claiming fraud doesn’t exist (and they’re factually incorrect about that) and the other saying it does and something should be done about it.

Guess which side I come down on?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Obama and taxes

President Obama is on his newest attempt to change the subject and find something to take to the people that might interest them and distract from his abysmal economic performance.  It’s taxes.  Specifically, he’s decided to make an issue of the automatic tax increases that will take effect in January and claim he does not want to see taxes increase on anyone but those nasty rich who need to “pay their fair share”.  Or, back to class warfare.

A) He likes to refer to these as the “Bush tax cuts”.  In fact, they’re the current tax rate.  Have been for years.  What he wants to do is see a tax increase on the rich, but no one else.  I’m not sure how else one characterizes that but “class warfare”, especially given the percentage of total taxes that top income group pays already.

B) Republicans are saying no tax increases on anyone.  Democrats like to characterize that as protecting the rich.  I like to characterize it as an attempt to address the real problem – out of control government spending.

C) The nasty “rich” Obama wants to tax also include almost a million small businesses.  That’s one of the primary reasons, in this weakening economy, that Republicans are right not to agree to any tax increases.  It is both stupid and economically suicidal.  But then you have to know about economics and the business world to understand that.

D) Democrats had two years of a complete monopoly on government to get this done and didn’t.  It’s not the Republicans who have prevented anything.  It is total incompetence on the Democratic side of the aisle.  And, as Obama’s favorite pastor likes to say, “those chickens are coming home to roost”.

E) Finally, Barack Obama has already raised taxes on the middle class despite his statement in a speech yesterday claiming he had no desire to raise middle class taxes.

The tax is called the mandate in ObamaCare.  It goes like this:

 

Taxmandate

 

75% of the mandate tax falls on the middle class.    That is a middle class tax hike in anyone’s book.

So when he claims he has no desire to raise the taxes on the middle class, that may be true … now.  Because, in fact, he’s already done it.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Do we need “more teachers?”

The latest little dust up is about President Obama claiming we need to hire more teachers (i.e. we need more government jobs) and the Romney campaign saying we really don’t. Who is right?

Former Gov. John Sununu steps in with the following:

Former New Hampshire Gov. John H. Sununu, a surrogate for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, defended the presumptive Republican nominee’s comments that the nation should have fewer teachers, firefighters and police officers, saying there was "wisdom" in Romney’s remarks.

"There are municipalities, there are states where there is flight of population, and as the population goes down, you need fewer teachers. As technology contributes to community security and dealing with issues that firefighters have to issue, you would hope that you can as a taxpayer see the benefits of the efficiency in personnel you can get out of that," Sununu said during an interview on MSNBC’s "Jansing & Co." Monday, prefacing that he was speaking "as a taxpayer" and not a representative of the Romney campaign. "There may be others who run away from those comments, but I’m going to tell you that there are places where just pumping money in to add to the public payroll is not what the taxpayers of this country want."

So do we or don’t we need more teachers?  That should be fairly easy to determine, shouldn’t it?  And, as it turns out it is:

 

cato-percent-change-public-schools

 

Since 1970 we’ve seen a 100% increase in Public School employment and a, what, an 8% increase in Public School enrollment?

Am I missing something here?  It would seem we have a plethora of educators available.  Or at least education employees.  If they’re not educators, then my suggestion is perhaps the way to get “more teachers”, if they’re really needed, is to look at the current employee mix and reduce administrative overhead while increasing the number of teachers.  Problem solved.

That, of course, could be done without spending a dime.  And that, as Sununu points out, would certainly be satisfactory to taxpayers.  Oh, wait, teacher’s unions – yeah, not going to happen is it?.

But let’s get real about this Obama gambit – it is the usual appeal.  Whenever the Democrats want to increase the size of government, the first jobs they talk about are “teachers, firemen and cops”.  Without exception.  It is a tired old ploy that most people ought to be on too by now.

And yet we continue to see it employed and, unfortunately, it works.  The scare factor.  See the above chart if you don’t believe me.

In the case of schools, what has it given us over the years as the taxpayer has answered the inevitable appeal and thrown money at schools?

 

cato-percent-cost-schools

 

A 90% increase in cost and flatlined (and even subpar) achievement.

We don’t need more teachers.  

We need less government.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


On Wisconsin – the horrific drubbing the unions took, not the fight song. What if anything did the left learn?

There is lots of interesting (and not so interesting) “introspection” going on among lefties about why what happened in Wisconsin happened – and why it was so resounding a defeat.

Ed Rendell, former Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, just thought the attempt was dumb, politically:

"It was a dumb political fight — I would have waited until Walker’s reelection," Rendell told The Hill when asked if the recall push had been a mistake. The former governor and head of the Democratic National Committee pointed to exit polls that showed a number of independents and Democrats who opposed Walker’s policies nonetheless voted for him because they opposed a recall.

Yeah, there’s some merit to Rendell’s point, but if there were indies and Dems who voted for Walker, it may have been not just because they opposed the recall, but because they were actually been objective enough (i.e. not blinded by ideology) to understand the problem the state faced and had seen progress in resolving it.

Even Barney Frank thought it was a fight the unions shouldn’t have picked (and that too is a key point – the unions picked this fight):

"My side picked a fight they shouldn’t have picked. The recall was upsetting to people, the rerun of the election with [Democratic Milwaukee Mayor] Tom Barrett — it’s not a fight I would have picked."

But instead of cool heads prevailing, emotion took over and ended up with a resounding loss.  Their first indication that the unions were in trouble was when they couldn’t even get their chosen candidate across the line in the Democratic primary.

Here’s a stat that I see being tossed around that ostensibly supports the Rendell point (i.e. these union members voted for Walker because they “opposed the recall”).

The network exit poll for the special election showed that Walker won the votes of 38 percent of voters who said they were a union member or lived in a household with a union member.

What they don’t point out is whether that 38% were members of a household with a “public service union member”.

Because that’s what this was about.   The state, the public service unions, etc.  My guess is most of these 38% were members of private unions who were among those getting 28% less in benefits than the public unions.

And, frankly, when the public service union members threw their collective tantrums prior to the recall effort, they turned a lot of people off, to include other union members.  Finally, when public service union members were given the choice of whether or not to pay union dues (the state quit collecting them automatically), public union membership in the state dropped dramatically.  The AFCME saw its membership drop by 55%.  And the Wisconsin Education Association Council (which spent $4 million of members dues on the recall)?

Since the collective bargaining measure was enacted last year, WEAC’s membership has dropped from around 90,000 to 70,000 but the remaining membership became energized by the recall and union leaders are hopeful that passion will continue as the union rallies around issues such as public school funding. The union is working on membership drives this summer.

Over at Reason, Shikha Dalmia cites Alec MacGillis at TNR’s rationalization for the loss:

Over at The New Republic Alec MacGillis enumerates all the reasons why public unions experienced an utter rout yesterday in Wisconsin: they were outspent; they should have attempted a referendum like their more successful comrades in Ohio rather than a recall; voters were in a pro-incumbent mood; Walker is a wily bastard who exempted cop and firefighter unions and thereby splintered the union vote.

I talked about MacGillis’ nonsense the other day.  It is hardly a “pro-incumbent” mood out there.  And we’ve also come to know that the “we were outspent" assertion is nonsense as well.  Dalmia contends there’s also another reason MacGillis avoided:

The only reason he neglected to mention happens to also be the correct one: taxpayers straining under out-of-control union demands finally cried: “ENUFF.”

I don’t think the public service unions yet understand this.   They don’t seem to understand that their “special case” puts them in a position where they’re “bargaining” with the people they’ve elected and the public understands and doesn’t like that.   And so they’ve gotten completely out of hand and what they’ve “bargained” for is unsustainable.  Dalmia makes the point:

Whatever the flaws of private sector unions, they have a right to collectively bargain to get as big a share of company profits as is sustainable. What is sustainable? Something in line with the value they help generate. If they ask for more, employers can’t summarily fire them and hire someone else given how our labor law is currently written. But unions can’t make limitless demands forever without sucking the company dry. Hence there is some market discipline that they have to hew to even when labor law arguably gives them unfair latitude.

But there is no equivalent discipline that public sector unions have to submit to. They don’t generate profits. So there is no objective way to measure the value of their work. The main purpose of their collective bargaining powers – it is a misnomer to call them “rights” — is to extract the most lavish wages and benefits they can possibly get from their government employer. Meanwhile, the employer, who pays from taxpayer pockets not her own, has little incentive to insist on reasonableness, especially if unions have helped put her in office. Collective bargaining powers in the public sector, then, virtually invite abuse. And so long as unions have these powers, they will have little reason to “self reform" beyond minor, cosmetic changes.

An example of a private union which was their own worst enemy was the Eastern Airline union.  It refused to compromise, refused to work until the company caved into its demands and when it finally got what it wanted, it had put the company in an unrecoverable position.  Consequence?  They got 100% of nothing.

Private sector unions, for the most part, understand that lesson and exercise a sort of discipline that keeps that line from being crossed (for the most part).

Public unions have no such governor.  There is no line for them.  They see the taxpayers as an unlimited source of funds.   They see themselves as an entitled class.  And even in the face of what any reasonable person would classify as unsustainable debt, they clamor for more.  Recall the public service union members chanting “raise taxes” when they were confronted with the unsustainability of their benefits in Illinois?  So do voters.

Bill Frezza sums up the point:

"The power of private sector unions was long ago broken by many heavily unionized companies going bankrupt. While this was painful for both workers and shareholders, the economy motored on as nimbler non-union competitors picked up the slack. This approach is problematic for the public sector because bankrupt state and local governments cannot be replaced by competitors waiting in the wings. Yes, citizens can always vote with their feet, emptying out cities like Detroit, leaving the blighted wreckage behind. But isn’t Walker’s targeted fiscal retrenchment less painful than scorched-earth abandonment?"

Yes, it is.  And that’s what the voting public is discovering.  Walker delivered results.  And those results will serve as an example to other states.  Reality is a bitch and reality is finally arriving in the public service union sector.

Finally, the big question: Does this victory in Wisconsin mean anything nationally?

The White House, unsurprisingly, says “no”.

"The President supported and stood by Tom Barrett, but I certainly wouldn’t read much into yesterday’s result beyond its effect on who’s occupying the governor’s seat in Wisconsin," Carney said in a question-and-answer session aboard Air Force One. "What you had was an incumbent governor in a repeat election that he had won once, in which he outspent his challenger by a magnitude of 7 or 8 to 1, with an enormous amount of outside corporate money and huge donations, and you got essentially the same result," Carney said.

But here’s the key point that those saying “no” seem to miss:

Walker’s surprisingly easy win over Democrat Tom Barrett on Tuesday was fueled by a big turnout from a motivated Republican base of voters, and by heavy spending by out-of-state conservatives who flooded Wisconsin with campaign cash.

Both trends raised difficult questions for Obama’s re-election campaign, which has struggled to match the enthusiasm of his 2008 White House run and compete financially with the huge sums of money being raised by conservative outside groups ahead of the November 6 election.

That’s right … what was exercised and proven in Wisconsin was a template that included cash and a ground game.

It worked.  And it put WI in play in November (pretending that the wildly inaccurate exit polls prove otherwise is simply an exercise in whistling past the graveyard).

Which brings us to a question posed by Jim Geraghty in his Morning Jolt this morning:

A Blasphemous Question: What if Axelrod & Company Were More Lucky than Good in 2008?

Here’s a simple, basic explanation about David Axelrod and the Obama campaign, and their performance four years ago and now: When the wind is at your back, it’s easy to look smart. When the wind is in your face, it’s very hard to look good.

In 2008, Obama had a series of big gusts at his back. Yes, glowing media coverage was one, but he probably wouldn’t have done as well if he had brought the same resume and style to the 2004 political environment or the 2000 one. His ascension to the White House required eight years of the opposition party’s rule, an unpopular war, a series of scandals involving the opposition, and finally the Lehman collapse and the resulting economic meltdown. Almost a perfect storm.

And now, he’s got a record – and a poor one at that – combined with a stagnant economy, massive unemployment and, well you name it on the negative side and you’re likely to find it.

So, yes – it isn’t at all hard, given the number of missteps and misfires his re-election campaign has had to come down on the “lucky” side for 2008, is it? 

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


The Left already walking back a Wisconsin loss as significant to Obama

I have no idea how the vote in Wisconsin will go today.  All polls seem to point to a victory by incumbent governor Scott Walker and my guess is that’s how it will turn out.

But the left, or at leas part of the left in the guise of The New Republic’s Alec MacGillis, is trying to walk back the national significance of a possible Walker victory.

Citing the conventional wisdom that a loss today would bode ill for Obama in Wisconsin and nationally come November, well, he’s not on board with that:

I don’t buy it. And that goes the other way, too — I don’t think Democrats should take away too much optimism for their fall prospects if Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett pulls off an upset win. Part of this has to with all the usual reasons why state contests should not be taken as barometers of national sentiment, as listed in a smart guest post by Will Oremus on David Weigel’s Slate blog: "1) It’s a recall. 2) It’s happening in June. 3) The incumbent is a Republican. 4) Neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney is running. 5) A significant number of states (49 by my count) will not be participating. 6) Need I go on?"

Seems to be missing a few numbers, doesn’t it?

7) the left initiated the recall, has poured millions upon millions of dollars into a state which Obama took by 14 points, and is seemingly failing in its attempt to oust a sitting Republican governor.

8)if the left and unions can’t motivate voters in this state, what does that say about their chances nationally?

9)the left elevated this into an election with “national implications”, not the right.

10)the left began the meme that this would foretell the November national election, not the right.

11)Barack Obama is avoiding WI like the plague because he understands the national implications of being associated with a loss there by the left.

Etc.

MacGillis is pretty sure he can figure out a way that such a loss would actually be good for Obama.

My colleague Noam Scheiber adds an interesting conjecture on the lessons that the parties will take from the Wisconsin results about the allocation of resources this fall, arguing that a Walker win might also help the Democrats in that regard.

Oh, well, then certainly a loss would be much less biting then (really?).  The Democrats would learn a valuable lesson about “the allocation of resources this fall”?  Yippee.

But how does MacGillis think this is a good thing for Obama?  Well, he manages to ignore 7-11(+) above (and pretty much everything else of significance) and reduces his analysis to the absurd:

So beware the pundits who turn Tuesday’s vote into nothing but a grand partisan referendum and fail to take into account a less cable-ready way of assessing a Walker victory: as a statement of grudging pro-incumbent sentiment in a time of cautious optimism about a painfully gradual economic recovery.

Anyone who actually believes it’s a “grudging pro-incumbent sentiment” being expressed in Wisconsin is doing an admirable and obvious job of whistling past the graveyard.  They also don’t have any real clue about what’s happening there today.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Preference cascade: How solid are Obama’s favorability numbers?

I wonder about the validity of these sorts of numbers:

While rising 14 points since February, Romney still trails the president, who currently has a 56% favorable rating, with 42% saying they hold an unfavorable opinion of Obama. The president’s favorable and unfavorable ratings are unchanged from CNN polls in March and April.

“The biggest gap between Obama and Romney’s favorable ratings is among younger Americans. More than two-thirds of those under 30 have a favorable view of Obama, compared to only four-in-ten who feel that way about Romney. Romney is much stronger among senior citizens, but the gap is not nearly as big," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Romney may have a small advantage among independent voters, but that is offset by his lower favorable rating among Republicans than Obama has among Democrats."

A couple of things – how strong, really, is Obama’s favorable ratings among a demographic scared to death of being called a racist if they happen to have an unfavorable view of our first black president?  That’s a legitimate question.

Old folks, for the most part, don’t give a damn about that and may more closely mirror the real feelings out in fly over land.

The reason I say that is Obama’s “favorable ratings” have continued to stay high while his job performance numbers have continued to fall.  That seems somewhat unlikely.  Usually the two show some movement in the same direction even if one is higher than the other.

Romney is going to grow on Republicans if he continues to attack (i.e. not be the designated place holder for the GOP and refuse to do what is necessary to win as did John McCain), keep the campaign focused on the real issues of the campaign (and Obama’s record) and not fall for the distractions that are sure to be tossed out to the media every week by the Obama campaign.  Republicans are eager for someone, anyone, who will carry the political battle to the Democrats.

John Hayward talks about the Glenn Reynolds “preference cascade”, a phenomenon Reynolds notes while talking about the collapse of totalitarian regimes.   Hayward describes it here:

A large population can be dominated by a small group only by persuading all dissenters that they stand alone.  Most of their fellow citizens are portrayed as loyal to the regime, and everyone around the dissident is a potential informer.  A huge dissident population can therefore be suppressed, by making them believe they’re all lonely voices in the wilderness… until the day they begin realizing they are not alone, and most people don’t support the regime.  The process by which dissent becomes seen as commonplace, and eventually overwhelming, is the preference cascade.

This analysis doesn’t have to be confined to the study of repressive, dictatorial regimes, or even politics.  Consider the phenomenon of celebrity without merit – that is, people who are famous for being famous.  Their popularity tends to evaporate in a preference cascade eventually, as people in the audience begin wondering if anyone else is tired of hearing about the ersatz “celebrity,” and soon discover that everyone is.

He then applies it to the politics of this race:

That’s what began happening over the past couple of weeks: a large number of people discovered it’s okay to strongly disapprove of Barack Obama.  His popularity has always been buttressed by the conviction – very aggressively pushed by his supporters – disapproval of his personal or official conduct is immoral. You’re presumptively “racist” if you disagree with him

That’s what began happening over the past couple of weeks: a large number of people discovered it’s okay to strongly disapprove of Barack Obama.  His popularity has always been buttressed by the conviction – very aggressively pushed by his supporters – that disapproval of his personal or official conduct is immoral.  You’re presumptively “racist” if you disagree with him, or at least a greedy tool of the Evil Rich, or a “Tea Party extremist.”

A negative mirror image of this narrative was installed around Mitt Romney, who is supposedly a fat-cat extremist (and, thanks to the insidious War On Mormons, a religious nut) who nobody likes… even though large numbers of people in many different states voted for him in the primaries.  Of course he has his critics, and I’m not seeking to dismiss the intensity or sincerity of that criticism… but the idea was to make Romney supporters feel isolated going into the general election, particularly the people who don’t really get involved in primary elections.

Both of those convergent narratives began crumbling this week: Obama is deeply vulnerable, and his campaign has no real answer to criticism of his record – they’ve even tried floating an outright fraud, the now-infamous Rex Nutting charts that presented Obama as some kind of fiscal hawk.  (Stop laughing – major media figures took this garbage seriously for a couple of days, and Team Obama did push it.)  Major Democrats, beginning with Newark mayor Cory Booker, expressed criticism of the Obama campaign… and the Left reacted with shrieking hysteria and vows of personal destruction for the “traitors.”

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney effectively presented both substantive criticism of Obama, and a positive agenda.  Attacks on his business record that were supposed to destroy him through class-warfare tactics failed to draw blood.  The idea that he can win became widely accepted.  That doesn’t mean he won the 2012 argument… but unlike Barack Obama, he is offering one.

What is beginning to lose its effectiveness, it’s cache, is, as Hayward notes, " … disapproval of his personal or official conduct is immoral. You’re presumptively “racist” if you disagree with him …”.

But when polled, especially among younger voters, that presumption is still powerful enough I would guess, to see those voters lie to pollsters.  It is a sort of social conditioning that has taught them to avoid such a label even at the cost of a lie (and even when speaking to a pollster).

So, and it is merely a guess, but based on a life long study of human nature, there is a distinct possibility that  the “Tom Bradley” effect may be pumping up Obama’s popularity numbers.

And, as Hayward points out, as it becomes less and less effective or acceptable to accuse those who do not like Obama of being racists, the possibility of a preference cascade negative to Obama’s favorability is a distinct possibility.

No one who has watched the beginnings of this race can, with any credibility, claim the Obama campaign isn’t struggling.  Donors are deserting him, his record is an albatross around his neck, there is strife between his administration and campaign and many of his political supporters seem luke warm at best with any number of Democrats running for reelection in Congress content not to be seen with the man.  Too many indicators that point to the probability that the numbers CNN are pushing aren’t quite as solid as they may seem.

Hayward concludes with an important update:

I should add that the most powerful cascades occur when an artificially imposed sense of isolation crumbles.  That’s very definitely what is happening here.  Widespread popular discontent with the Obama presidency has been suppressed by making the unhappy campers feel marginalized.  The failure of that strategy is akin to watching a dam burst under high pressure.

The race, once it gets into high gear, is what will cause the “dam burst” as more and more Americans discover they’re not alone in their feelings about the President and that they are not at all on the margins, but very mainstream. 

Once that happens (and it will), when everyone finally realizes they’re not the only one who has noticed the emperor has no clothes, the chances of a one-term Obama presidency increase exponentially.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


How would you rate the Obama recovery?

Investors Business Daily saves you the trouble.  Of the past 10 recoveries since WWII, this recovery rates dead last.

For instance:

Employment: By this point, the average job growth in the past 10 recoveries was 6.9%. Under Obama, jobs have grown by just 1.9%, according to data from the Minneapolis Federal Reserve.

Had the current recovery kept pace with just the average recovery over the past 60 years, there would be 6.5 million more people with jobs today, and the unemployment rate would be below 7%, instead of above 8%. That assumes several million more Americans would have joined the workforce. If the current anemic labor force were unchanged, those 6.5 million jobs would drive unemployment to 4%.

Just as importantly:

GDP growth: The Obama recovery has also performed far worse than average when it comes to GDP growth. After 11 quarters, the economy is still only 6.8% bigger than it was when the recession ended. In contrast, GDP was 16% bigger, on average, by this point in the previous 10 recoveries, the Minneapolis Fed data show.

The current recovery is so slow, in fact, that it just barely beats GDP growth 11 quarters after the 1980 recession ended — even though there was the intervening long and painful 1981-82 recession. And unless GDP shoots up in Q2, the current recovery will soon be the absolute worst since the Great Depression.

Had the Obama recovery tracked the average GDP growth in the 10 previous recoveries, the economy would be almost $1.2 trillion bigger today.

Remember, we’re just talking average here.  If this recovery were a average recovery, we’d see the numbers IBD is talking about.  Instead, this recovery is well below average.  In fact, it defines the bottom.

Incomes: By the third year of the past five recoveries, real median household incomes climbed an average 2.8%, according to the Census Bureau, which only has household income data back to 1967.

But in the current recovery, real household incomes dropped 5.4% during the recovery, according to Sentier Research, which compiles a monthly household income index using Census data.

"Unlike previous recoveries, we actually saw household incomes drop faster during the recovery than they did during the recession itself," said Gordon Green, who co-founded Sentier.

Again, extraordinarily poor performance. 

And, to the claim that Obama has spent less than any other recent president (a laugher if ever there was one and factually wrong), lets examine the actual record on deficits and national debt:

Deficits: The current recovery also doesn’t stack up well when it comes to annual federal deficits. By this point in previous recoveries, deficits were running an average 2.2% of GDP. This year, they’re expected to be 7.6%, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Here’s another way to look at it: If the deficit-to-GDP ratio matched the average of the previous recoveries, it would be around $341 billion, instead of $1.2 trillion.

National debt: Although Obama claims that he’s cleaning up after the "wild debts" Republicans ran up, the national debt has climbed much faster during Obama’s economic recovery than the typical recovery in the past.

On average, federal debt climbed 9.5% in the first three years of those recoveries, after adjusting for inflation. Under Obama, debt has climbed $4 trillion since the recovery started, a 28% increase in real terms.

Which brings us to the Obama excuses for this poor performance:

Obama routinely blames the deep recession. The problem is that, historically, the deeper the recession, the stronger the recovery has been.

Others have argued that recoveries from financial crises produce sluggish recoveries. However, a paper published by the Atlanta Fed concluded that U.S. history provides "no support" for linking the current mediocre recovery "with the financial crisis of 2007—2008."

And there are those who argue that the stimulus was insufficient. But that’s hard to believe, too, since spending has averaged more than 24% of GDP over the past three years, and deficits averaged 9.3% — higher levels than at any time since World War II.

Obama most recently has argued that Republicans are thwarting the recovery.

"We’ve got too many of my dear Republican friends in Congress that have been standing in the way of some steps that we could take that would make a difference at the moment," Obama said last week.

But Obama got everything he wanted in terms of economic policy his first two years in office, when he had solid Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, including a massive stimulus, Cash for Clunkers, mortgage aid, Wall Street reform, ObamaCare and so on.

The arguments simply have no factual support.  They’re political excuses; the usual attempt at blame shifting  for which this president is so famous.

In fact, his record in this recovery is abysmal.  Yet he’s asking for another 4 years, one assumes, to try to fix what he’s royally screwed up. 

These should be the facts and figures the Romney campaign uses constantly.  And with that, they should also point out the mess a President Romney will “inherit” from the current occupant of the White House.

Forward!

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Wisconsin: Even the DNC knows a loser when it sees one

There’s a report out that Wisconsin Democrats are furious with the DNC for not supporting their efforts to recall Gov. Scott Walker.

Walker, the target of unions since he tried to curtail their power in the state, is in a runoff election with the former mayor of Milwaukee, Tom Barrett.  This is a race the unions have made a “national election”.  They’ve poured money, time and effort into this recall election that has been unmatched in recent electoral history.  But it seems it isn’t enough.  At this point, with 3 weeks to go, Walker leads Barrett by 9 points.

Some of the strength of the base supporting Walker was evident in the primary.  Ace fills us in with some numbers:

You know those 626,000 Republicans who turned out in Wisconsin yesterday? Go higher. A LOT higher.

Big number, but if the Marquette Law poll released last Wednesday is to be believed . . . that number is actually low.

MU found that of the voters confirming they would be voting in the Democratic primary, 17% were Republicans.

We will never know the actual numbers per party since there was no exit polling.

Assuming that even HALF of that number stuck by their decision to cross over to cause some mayhem, that means that over 50,000 votes on the Democratic side were just devilish Republicans, bringing the total turnout to over 676k for our side.

If you go by the Marquette number, those "hidden Rs" swell to an additional 110k, bringing total turnout to 736,000: nearly matching Prosser’s share in 2011 for a primary.

There is no way to spin turnout Tuesday in the Democrat’s favor. . . .

Dane County gave the Democrats a massive edge in votes of about 80,000, but proportionally that did not materialize in Milwaukee, which is a big concern for anyone trying to unseat Walker. If you remember earlier discussions here at the AOSHQDD, depressed Democratic turnout in Milwaukee county relative to the rest of the state actually saved Justice Prosser. The Madison vote will show up. The pro-Walker vote will show up from the Milwaukee burbs. Will traditional Presidential-race Democrats in Wisconsin’s largest city bother for a special election, even one as hyped as this? So far, the little evidence we have points to a big fat nuh-uh.

Walker won the largest uncontested share of a primary vote for governor last night in 40 years. His base is behind him when they really didn’t need to show up at all.

If you don’t recognize the name “Prosser”, he was a Republican justice who most felt would fall to a pro-union Democrat.  But the election results most desired by the union didn’t materialize.  Prosser won.  The key graf in Ace’s analysis is the last one.  Walker was uncontested.  Yet, his base demonstrated their strength and intent.  And, if the Marquette poll is to be believed, you can add up to 17% more in June.

It looks like union effort is faltering.  How badly?  Well, they couldn’t even get their preferred candidate elected in the Democratic primary:

Kathleen Falk’s drubbing in Tuesday’s Democratic primary has some political insiders questioning the decisions, and influence, of the state’s major public labor unions.

Falk, 60, was the first Democrat to enter the recall election, announcing her candidacy even before the race was official. Major labor unions, including AFSCME and the Wisconsin Education Association Council, quickly endorsed her and then went on to spend nearly $5 million to help her win the nomination.

But on Tuesday, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett — a candidate for whom the unions initially showed very little love — defeated the former Dane County executive by 24 percentage points; a margin of victory all the more startling given that he entered the race late and was outspent 5-to-1. Barrett’s victory was even more pronounced in Dane County, Falk’s backyard, where he won by 30 points.

As Jim Geraghty asks:

So if the AFSCME and the Wisconsin Education Association Council couldn’t move votes in a Democratic primary, why should we expect them to move more votes in the general election?

That’s why they’re now whining about the DNC.  My guess is if they lose, the DNC will be the fall guy, the “if but for the DNC’s failure to throw good money after bad, we’d have won” assertions.  It’s time to become a victim.  Gov. Walker has returned Wisconsin to at least a semblance of fiscal sanity with a budget surplus this year.  His program of changes is working.  The voters in Wisconsin aren’t blind or stupid.  So victimhood is about all the recall proponents have left at this point.

In a last desperate attempt to salvage the effort, Wisconsin Democrats are trying to rewrite a little history:

“Scott Walker has made this a national election,” the Wisconsin Dem tells me. “If he wins, he will turn his victory into a national referendum on his ideas about the middle class. It will hurt Democrats nationally. The fact that [national Dems] are sitting on their hands now is so frustrating. The whole ticket stands to lose.”

Scott Walker had nothing to do with initiating a recall election, throwing collective temper tantrums in the state capitol or bussing in union members (and buckets of money) in from out of state.  Democrats and unions did.  It is they who have been appealing nationally.  It is they who have elevated the Wisconsin recall election a “national election”.  And, to this point, it is they who are fumbling the ball.

But they’re right about one thing.  Thanks to them, it has been turned into a national referendum of the sort they don’t want to lose.  And, unfortunately for them, at this point, they are.

Forward!

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO