Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: June 2012


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


Wisconsin recall election: How dirty is it?

All you have to do is look at the latest smear against Gov. Scott Walker and its clear that there is no limit to what the opposition will throw out there:

Bernadette Gillick was a college freshman in 1988 when she first met Scott Walker. It was spring semester, and she had just transferred to Marquette University. She was assigned a room in O’Donnell Hall (then a women’s dormitory), which she shared with her new roommate, Ruth (not her real name). Ruth was dating Scott Walker, who was 20 at the time, and, according to Bernadette, Ruth was deeply in love with him.

Midway through that spring semester, Bernadette alleges, Ruth found out she was pregnant. She informed her boyfriend, Scott, and initially he was supportive. That support changed to callous indifference for his girlfriend’s predicament after Scott informed his parents of the pregnancy.

Bernadette reports that at this point Scott began denying that he was the father of the baby, and when Ruth said she was considering an abortion, he claimed he didn’t care, as he wasn’t the father anyway.

Bernadette remembers being present when Ruth was dealing with the wrath of Scott’s mother, who allegedly admonished Ruth for trying to “ruin [her son's] reputation.”

“I supported her [Ruth] as he [Scott] went from encouraging her to get an abortion, to telling me it was in my best interest to keep my mouth shut, to denying that he was the father and having his own mother call her and tell her to stop erroneously accusing her son of paternity,” Bernadette recounts.

It was a “horrible time” for her friend. “Imagine her being 18 years old and pregnant, walking around Marquette’s Jesuit Catholic campus with her boyfriend denying he was the father,” says Bernadette.

All this was taking place while Walker was running for student body president. As one of his classmates, Dr. Glenn Barry recalled in a remembrance published last week, Walker’s campaign was, “one of the dirtiest in school history.” The student newspaper Marquette Tribune called him “unfit for office” after his campaign was discovered collecting and throwing out copies of their paper that endorsed his opponent. Commenting on the election and Walker’s political career and style at Marquette, he noted, “Walker lost on all counts, but not before destroying a few people’s reputations, and amassing personal power.”

If Bernadette’s story is true, Ruth – and eventually their child – were just a few of the people who got in the way of Walker’s quest for power.

Note the last sentence – “If Bernadette’s story is true …”.

Well, according to “Ruth”, it isn’t.  Too bad the “Wisconsin Citizen Media Co-op” didn’t bother to do the basic verification a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Online reporter (btw, as much crap as we give the MSM, its nice to see one of it’s members do some basic work) did rather quickly and easily:

Daniel Bice June 3, 2012 at 3:15 am Reply

I am getting a lot of emails because of this post. Two things: (1) I tracked down and talked to Dr. Gillick’s freshman-year roommate at MU yesterday, and she adamantly denies that Walker is the father of her child. Yes, she got pregnant as a first-year student, but she believes Dr. Gillick is mixing up stories …

Or, the child wasn’t Scott Walker’s.

The “Wisconsin Citizen Media Co-op” then writes a follow up ironically entitled – “Editorial: On Integrity” where it attempts, poorly in my estimation, to justify running an unverified rumor that was quickly debunked. 

Further irony?  The Wisconsin Citizen Media Co-op recalls Walker’s campaign at Marquette as “one of the dirtiest in school history”.

Heh … my bet it can’t hold a candle to the dirt the Wisconsin Citizen Media Co-op just tried to dish on Walker.

But the irony impaired won’t get that either.

June 5th ought to be a very interesting day.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Photo ID required for Mass state Democratic convention

For the irony impaired left, a look at your own requirements:

In recent years, Democrats have argued that requiring voters to show photo IDs prior to voting is an egregious act of voter suppression. Ben Jealous, of the NAACP, has gone so far as to argue that such requirements are tantamount to modern-day Jim Crow laws. In the world they inhabit, lots of voters don’t have access to photo IDs, so requiring voters to provide this will "disenfranchise" them and leave them out of the democratic process. Funny they don’t feel that way for their own party conventions.

On Saturday, Massachusetts delegates will meet in their state’s Democrat party convention. The votes of these delegates will determine whether there are primary elections for their party nominations. With so much at state, Democrats have decided to implement Voter ID requirements:

A PHOTO ID WILL BE REQUIRED TO ENTER THE MASSMUTUAL CENTER

Yeah, they still won’t get it.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 03 Jun 12

This week, Bruce, Michael and Dale talk about the economy and the election.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


I don’t think I’ve never seen a more self-centered president in my life …

You’ve probably seen this.  If not, I doubt it will surprise you.  Any idea of what the White House Memorial Day picture was?  Uncle Jimbo at Blackfive wondered what it might be:

A. a tasteful shot of Arlington Cemetery

B. A pic of a Gold Star Mom at her son’s grave

C. An image of an inverted rifle and empty boots signifying the death of a soldier.

NOPE! None of those pay homage to the true hero of the day.

And that hero of the day?

 

6a00d8341bfadb53ef016766fc56c8970b-500wi

 

Of course … Mr. “Gutsy call” himself.

Shameless.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Obama: "Hey, Mitt, wouldn’t you rather be a nice loser than a mean winner?"

 

In a patented Instapundit zinger, Glenn sums up Obama’s whining about Romney with four words:

I’LL BET HE DOES: In tough fight with Romney, Obama longs for McCain.

Obama has spent his whole life getting pretty much what he wanted, with token opposition at best. He obviously likes it that way. I suppose if I had lived a charmed life as long as he has, I would also feel entitled to see the charms continue forever.

I’m on record as being no fan of Mitt Romney. I don’t expect to vote for him. I see grave danger that he will end up being the scapegoat of an unprecedented economic meltdown – if it happens on his watch, you can be sure the legacy media journalists and the academic left will work overtime to pin it all on him, and lie through their teeth to minimize the contribution of Democrats and leftists to the problem.

But I do loathe the sanctimonious, smarmy president we have now. Let me translate some of his sanctimony:

It will only be when Mitt Romney is defeated, the president continued, "that the fever may break, because there’s a tradition in the Republican Party of more common sense than that."

“There’s a tradition in the Republican Party of making a good show and then rolling over for the big-government left. Hey, they’re supposed to be more loyal to the rest of the political class, including me, than to those whackjobs that actually vote for them. It’s not fair if they don’t keep doing that.”

"The last time we ran, we had a Republican candidate who — I had some profound disagreements with him, but he acknowledged the need for immigration reform, and acknowledged the need for campaign finance reform, acknowledged the need for policies that would do something about climate change," Obama said. "Now, what we’ve got is not just a nominee but a Congress and a Republican Party that have a fundamentally different vision about where we need to go as a country."

“Come on, Mitt, don’t you want to be a loser like McCain? He understood the kabuki Republicans are supposed to perform. He embraced a whole bunch of leftist positions, but still pretended to be conservative. He knew he wasn’t supposed to really criticize me and my Lightworker persona. Now, I have to run against people who won’t play my game, and insist on setting out some kind of clear choice. That’s not fair.”

At about the same time, the Obama campaign released a web video that also featured McCain nostalgia. "John McCain stood up to the voices of extremism in his party," the video said. "Why won’t Mitt Romney do the same?"

“Why won’t Mitt Romney play the game the way I want? He should be wasting his time on the things I want him to waste time on. See, the whole repudiation thing is a win-win for me. With the help of my comrades in the media, I can keep Romney busy defending the indefensible, and he’ll still come out of it looking bad no matter how much he apologizes or repudiates. Plus, his base gets demoralized. Why won’t he go along with that? Doesn’t he understand that I need him to play the role of the valiant loser who gets a nice compliment in my victory speech? It’s not fair.”

I don’t expect that his whining is going to win over many voters, but what else can he do? His record is dismal in just about every respect you can name. He has to talk about something, and as out of touch as Obama is, even he knows he’d better not talk about unemployment, lack of growth, or troubles in Europe. When he tries to talk about foreign issues, he ends up speaking of the Maldives instead of the Malvinas, or Polish death camps, or whatever. With his speaking record already including 57 states and “corpse-man”, maybe he’s better off if he sticks to generic whining.


Meanwhile, in Libya

Unicorns are dancing, fairy dust is in the air and Arab spring continues to flower:

Libyan revolutionaries captured and killed Muammar Gaddafi more than seven months ago, but the dictator’s brutal tactics and antidemocratic ways live after him. Human-rights workers say that’s true not only within the high walls of the dictator’s former Ain Zara torture center but at other jails and penitentiaries across the country. Abdul is among at least 20 Ain Zara inmates whose relatives accuse guards of subjecting detainees to severe and regular beatings with everything from fists to sticks, metal rods, and chains. Family members say some of the prisoners have been repeatedly beaten on their genitalia, a form of punishment that—in addition to being excruciatingly painful—could leave its victims infertile. Others, according to relatives, have been tortured with Taser-style electroshock weapons.

R2P, baby, R2P.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Unemployment rate rises to 8.2%

As a follow up to the post below, another indication of how anemic our recovery is can be found in the “official” unemployment numbers.  This week it rose .1% to 8.2%.  I don’t have to belabor the fact that the number is a real lowball of the true unemployment rate.  Suffice it to say, regardless of the number, the trend this month has been to the negative:

The American jobs engine hit stall speed in May, with the economy adding just 69,000 new jobs while the unemployment rate climbed to 8.2 percent.

As another summertime swoon looms, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that job creation missed economist estimates for 158,000 new positions and the jobless rate rose for the first time in nearly a year.

Labor force participation remains near 30-year lows though incrementally better than last month, rising to 63.8 percent.

The unemployment rate that counts discouraged workers rose as well, swelling to 14.8 percent form 14.5 percent in April.

To put it succinctly, the employment picture sucks and doesn’t at all appear to be getting better.  Last months 115,000 new jobs has been revised down to 77,000 .  Couple all of that with what we see happening in the rest of the world and it paints a pretty bleak economic picture for at least the near future.

James Pethokoukis lays out some of that picture for you:

– 1Q GDP was revised down to 1.9% from 2.2%. The previous four GDP quarters of Obama recovery: 0.4%, 1.3%, 1.8%, 3.0%. Keep in mind that research from the Federal Reserve finds that that since 1947, when two-quarter annualized real GDP growth falls below 2 percent, recession follows within a year 48 percent of the time. (And when year-over-year real GDP growth falls below 2 percent, recession follows within a year 70 percent of the time.)

– Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 383,000. Claims have now risen in seven of the past eight weeks. The four-week moving average for new claims increased 3,750 to 374,500.

[…]

– Job cuts jumped by 53%  in May from April in the United States, according to a report by consultancy firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. CNBC also notes that “employers announced plans to cut 61,887 staff from their payrolls in May, 67 percent more than in the same month of last year. The figure represents the most job cuts since last September.”

– The  Rasmussen Consumer Index find that 59% think the U.S. is currently in a recession.

Politically, this isn’t at all good news for an incumbent President seeking another term.  With 14.8 percent of the workforce out of work or “discouraged”, the conventional wisdom says they’re unlikely to think signing on for another 4 years of this is worth it.  And the economy, at this moment, and under his leadership, is showing no indication the next 4 years will be any different than these past 4 years.

That’s just ground truth for all the wishful thinkers out there on the left.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Around the economic world in a few minutes

A post to update you on what is happening, economically around the world.

In Asia, some not so good signs.  In China, housing prices fell in 100 Chinese cities for the 5th straight month.  Chinese manufacturing has also cooled significantly:

Manufacturing activity in China and across a wide swath of Asia slowed in May, heightening fears that the turmoil in Western economies is dragging down one of the few remaining engines of global growth.

Two purchasing managers indexes for China fell in May, briefly rattling investors Friday and stoking speculation Beijing may have to respond aggressively to support growth. Indonesia posted its first trade deficit in nearly two years, and South Korea’s exports, considered a bellwether for Asia, unexpectedly fell for a third straight month.

"The green shoots of recovery that we were seeing a month or so back are wilting away," said Rob Subbaraman, chief Asia economist at Nomura Securities. "The crisis in Europe is one reason; the other one is the China slowdown. But I think less appreciated is that the height of uncertainty about the outlook has caused Asian firms and multinationals in Asia to pause in their investments, and I think that’s the bigger factor right now."

China’s official PMI, based on government data, showed manufacturing continuing to grow but by the barest of margins, falling to 50.4 in May from 53.3 in April. A figure above 50 indicates expansion. An index produced by HSBC and Markit showed Chinese manufacturing was worse, falling to 48.4 in May from 49.3 a month earlier.

"We feel that in China a very powerful stimulus"—combining fiscal outlays and cuts to banks’ reserve requirement ratio—"is required to arrest the slowdown in growth," said Frederic Neumann, co-head of Asian economic research for HSBC. "These numbers today suggest this is coming sooner rather than later. If that stimulus is not delivered, then China is indeed looking at a hard landing."

Both the US’s non-recovery recovery and the Eurozone crisis are being blamed for this slowdown.

The economies of Asia, both the emerging markets and the more developed countries, are being hit by a double whammy of slowing domestic growth and the impact of the European debt crisis on Asian exports and finance.

Signs of distress are proliferating.

In India, the government reported Thursday growth in the first three months of the year at the slowest pace in the past nine years—up 5.3% from the year-earlier quarter, well below the 8% pace of recent years. "A gasping elephant," said Leif Lybecker Eskesen, HSBC’s chief India economist, in a note to investors.

In China Friday, an official gauge of manufacturing activity fell to a lower than expected level, which is likely to add to market concerns about China’s slowdown. China’s official Purchasing Managers Index fell to 50.4 in May, compared with 53.3 in April and lower than the median forecast of 51.5. A reading below 50 indicates contraction. The Ministry of Commerce, meanwhile, is blaming "worse-than-expected" economic performance in Europe for disappointing export data.

Early Friday, South Korea said its exports unexpectedly contracted for a third consecutive month in May compared with a year earlier. South Korea is the first country in Asia to release trade data for the month and is often a harbinger of regional trends.

Meanwhile in Europe, the UK’s manufacturing is reported as slumping with activity dropping to its lowest level in three years.  The Eurozone jobless rate stands at 11%.  Additionally the Eurozone crisis is now beginning to effect countries with close proximity and ties which are not a part of the Euro:

The euro zone’s deepening fiscal crisis continued to take its toll on some of the neighboring economies of central and eastern Europe in May, as surveys released Friday indicated manufacturing activity contracted again in May.

The countries in Europe’s center and east have close trade and financial ties with the euro zone, and some have seen demand for their exports weaken as the currency area’s economy has stalled, while western Europe banks have cut their lending to the region.

A double whammy.  And, finally, within the Eurozone itself, companies are trying to prepare for the Greek withdrawal from the zone (and possibly Spain’s as well):

As European officials race to quell fears that Greece may exit the euro, many companies doing business in the troubled country are preparing for the worst.

Most executives, analysts and others agree on one thing: the impact of a Greek withdrawal from the euro zone is impossible to predict. That’s why multinational companies are rehearsing for any number of contingencies. They range from a paralysis in cross-border payments to a civil breakdown in Greece to a broader breakup of Europe’s common currency.

Retrieving their cash is among the companies’ gravest concerns. If Greece were to revert to its former currency, many companies fear that any euros left there would be converted into less-valuable drachmas. Should that happen, Greece is widely expected to impose capital controls to keep the remaining cash in the country.

Can you say “completely mess?”

Meanwhile, here, the business climate remains unsettled, hiring still isn’t showing any real turnaround and the economy continues to bang along the bottom (one assumes, it could drop again if the Euro crisis explodes) with no real trend upward.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO