Sunday, September 30, 2012

Is Obama on the Right or Left?

     During the debt ceiling fiasco last year, many liberals were claiming that Obama is a conservative. This view was particularly popular at Firedoglake.

     That Summer was truly the dog days. The GOP were using the threat of default as blackmail for huge budget cuts. In retrospect it's clear Obama is not on the Right.

      He's a liberal, probably a centrist one. What really provoked the conservatives were comments he had made in 2008 about being a transformation President. There was also a debate about whether the country is Center-Right or Center-Left.

      What it really comes down to is the President's plan from the start has been to transform the country to a (moderate) Center-Left consensus.

       Of course you have to play the political hand you're dealt. This is why back in 2011 he had to talk about budget deficits-the GOP had something of a mandate after 2010, though as usual they exaggerated it and overplayed their hand as they had in the 90s with the government shutdown.

       If you read David Corn's Showdown, it's clear that the President had a plan from the start of the 2010 loss. He never planned to merely settle for triangulation as Clinton had to do in the 90s(because the country is much riper for liberalism now than it was then).

      Obama's idea of transformation is the idea of turning the 30 year trend towards more and more conservative government-smaller government. However Rome wasn't built in a day.

      You have to play the political hand you're dealt. If the country isn't ready for it you can't go beyond that. The President's long term goal is for an ideological transformation. Victory in November will take us a long way towards this.

       Reagan transformed the country. In this sense Obama has strived to be another Reagan-a Democratic one.

       What was naive about the firebaggers is that they expected Obama to achieve it all over night. It's interesting that Clinton said he actually holds the President in higher regard now than in 2008.

        I supported him in 2008, of course, but what's interesting is I actually am more enthusiastic about him personally now than then. Maybe it's because I saw all the attacks on him. I saw the GOP try to destroy him-just as they did Clinton-while you had all the liberals turn on him rather than fight for him.

       When the dust clears we saw him achieve what no Democrat had achieved since FDR-healthcare along with some very significant bank regulation in Dodd-Frank.

        While some have argued that neither goes far enough it's enough that they are written into law. In time after Americans begin to see the fruits of them they can be improved on or expanded in different ways.



Americans Finally Catching on About Divided Government

     I got to say that one thing that has been a very pleasant surprise in this election has been the intelligence shown by Americans. That haven't fallen for the kinds of Republican tricks that worked in the past.

     Indeed, Greg Sargent has written extensively of the fact that the GOP theory of this election has turned out to be a flop. Most Americans don't blame the President solely for the slow recovery as the Romney team had assumed.

    They had thought it was enough to say You know the economy sucks and it's all Obama's fault. The RNC convention was all about the idea that You tried. We know you like Obama. But he's failed on the economy and it's ok to vote him out.

    This approach was crystallized in a Romney commercial that had an attractive woman tell Obama that it's not me it's you. I'd rather we just be friends.

     It presumed that the President had failed on the economy and it was obvious to most he had failed. The main thing holding the swing voters from turning on him they thought they hated to admit they were wrong about him.

    As Sargent has argued, most Americans took a much more nuanced view. Yes the economy is not where we'd like it to be, but it's improved a lot and it's not clear that it's the President's sole fault that it's not improving faster than it is-what about Paul Ryan's House that refused to even look at his Jobs Bill?

   In the end Americans haven't fallen for the Romney team's overly simplistic argument. Americans are not as dumb as many thought they were-particularly the Romney team.

   Now some new poll numbers out of Gallup seem to be showing that Americans aren't seduced by the false promise of "divided government."

   In the past the media talking heads talked a lot about some alleged preference of Americans for divided government. We heard this a lot in the 90s-for the simple reason that then we had divided government-a GOP Congress and Democratic President.

   However, Gallup now shows more Americans want a Congress that is the same party as the President, indeed, in unprecedented numbers: 38% now want one party rule and only 23% want divided government:

   "A record-high 38% of Americans prefer that the same party control the presidency and Congress, while a record-low 23% say it would be better if the president and Congress were from different parties and 33% say it doesn't make any difference. While Americans tend to lean toward one-party government over divided government in presidential election years, this year finds the biggest gap in preferences for the former over the latter and is a major shift in views from one year ago."

   The fact of that matter is that since FDR at least, the big accomplishments have come with a Dem President with his Dem Congress. Social Security was passed because there weren't enough GOPers in Congress to stop it. The same with Medicare in the 60s.

   Indeed, there are some cases perhaps of the parties working together like Tip O'Neil and Reagan in the 80s, or Clinton and the GOP with welfare reform in the 90s. However, notice that in these cases the Democrats basically went along with Republican priorities.

   I love me some Bill Clinton, but honestly welfare reform was my least favorite thing he did. Just between you and me, during the political season it's necessary for the President to insist that he hasn't gutted the work requirement in welfare. However, I'd have been fine with it if he did.

   When has the GOP worked with the Dems to on liberal priorities? I don't see many examples. The closest might be Ike and the Democratic Congress in the 50s. Perhaps Nixon in the early 70s as well.

    But what this makes clear is that elections have consequences as it's said. Clinton had to mostly triangulate on a conservative agenda in the 90s, as politically the GOP had a mandate.

    However, if Obama wins and the Democrats hold onto the Senate-both distinct possibilities right now; some also say the House is not out of reach and that it's even likely they'll take it back-it may be that Obama will turn out to be the transformational President the GOP has reviled him for being and Andrew Sullivan argues he will be in his second term.

    For the analysis that says the Dems can win back the House-he actually gives them a 75% likelihood!-see

    As elections have consequences Democratic success this election will put the GOP in a tough spot.. Are they all willing to lose their jobs for ideological purity?

    For 30 years they've practiced scorched earth opposition to everything the Dems have tried to do, however, might it at some point occur to them that this strategy that did them well is starting to suffer from a declining rate of returns?



Saturday, September 29, 2012

Andrew Sullivan: Is Obama Our Reagan?

    This can be a touchy comparison. I remember when Firedoglake was eviscerating the President for reading Reagan or saying that he learns a lot from Reagan-he even mentioned Reagan when he was debating with the GOP during the debt ceiling debacle.

    After all, didn't this prove the President is really a conservative? Of course it doesn't necessarily mean anything of the sort. Reagan on his way up and Gingrich in 1994 spoke a lot about FDR. Gingrich took him as a kind of inspiration for achieving what Newt hoped to achieve in 1994-a long term governing majority.

   This mission of Newt's of course would be aborted. In the same vein, it makes sense that the President should look to Reagan for clues. What's significant is that he sees Reagan as a "transformational President."

    Reagan, as he sees it, was able to achieve a fundamental shifting of the country to the Right. Those of us who hope to reverse this move, need a new transformational moment. The President therefore strives to be a transformational President.

    This has earned him the ire of conservatives who reproach him for wanting to be "transformational." They've taken a lot of odd things and run with them which they claim shows he doesn't value this country and its history as he should.

    For instance there was the supposed "apology tour" he took early in his first term. They felt that speeches he made in the Middle East were too apologetic and that he was guilty of the supreme crime for the conservative perspective of "hubris."

   What they seem to have in mind with hubris is that the President wants to change America. Now this would seem to be a good thing, but for them this proves he didn't like the way it was for 220 years.

   So they sniff "It was good enough for Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Truman, and Reagan but not Obama." He sees our past history as shameful and wants to elevate himself above it.

   So even Michelle Obama's expression of pride for the country the night Obama was elected became a show of her disdain for America and her history. Strange position this puts us in! To even suggest change means you are an American hating elitist who think your smarter than the combined wisdom of our founders and past leaders!

   Andrew Sullivan has a great piece in Newsweek that discusses the idea that the President is indeed that transformation leader our country needs. He thinks a second Obama term will be transformational and I totally agree with him:

   "As the fall has turned crisper, a second term for Barack Obama has gotten likelier. This may, of course, change: the debates, the Middle East, the unemployment numbers could still blow up the race. At this point in 2004, one recalls, George W. Bush was about to see a near eight-point lead shrivel to a one-state nail-biter by Election Day. But one thing that has so far, in my view, been underestimated is the potential impact of a solid Obama win, and perhaps a Democratic retention of the Senate and some progress in the House. This is now a perfectly plausible outcome. It would also be a transformational moment in modern American politics."

   I totally see it the same way-a second term and Senate retention would be huge-and the GOP admitted this recently. Not to quibble but there are some serious analysts that believe the Dems taking back the House is not just possible but likely.

  "If Obama wins, to put it bluntly, he will become the Democrats’ Reagan. The narrative writes itself. He will emerge as an iconic figure who struggled through a recession and a terrorized world, reshaping the economy within it, passing universal health care, strafing the ranks of al -Qaeda, presiding over a civil-rights revolution, and then enjoying the fruits of the recovery. To be sure, the Obama recovery isn’t likely to have the same oomph as the one associated with Reagan—who benefited from a once-in-a-century cut of top income tax rates (from 70 percent to, at first, 50 percent, and then to 28 percent) as well as a huge jump in defense spending at a time when the national debt was much, much less of a burden. But Obama’s potential for Reagan status (maybe minus the airport-naming) is real. Yes, Bill Clinton won two terms and is a brilliant pol bar none, as he showed in Charlotte in the best speech of both conventions. But the crisis Obama faced on his first day—like the one Reagan faced—was far deeper than anything Clinton confronted, and the future upside therefore is much greater. And unlike Clinton’s constant triangulating improvisation, Obama has been playing a long, strategic game from the very start—a long game that will only truly pay off if he gets eight full years to see it through. That game is not only changing America. It may also bring his opposition, the GOP, back to the center, just as Reagan indelibly moved the Democrats away from the far left."

  The idea that Obama could be a transformation President in the way that Clinton wasn't rankled Clinton early perhaps-Obama was not shy about this belief.

  In reality though, if Obama succeeds, Clinton set the table by enabling the Dems to become strong again nationally. It's hard to remember now, but back in 1988-as a Democrat who lived through the third straight Republican landslide-it seemed the Dems might never make it back to the White House. Clinton truly altered the electoral map. Even though Bush won two nail biters to start this century, comparing his pencil thin path to victory with the Reagan era blowouts shows Clinton altered the map permanently.

  For me the transformation potential of Obama is that the movement towards ever and ever smaller and more meager government would be stopped. It will be interesting to see how the Republicans deal with that. Because a win for the Democrats this time means that the country has chosen a role for government that is more activist than the GOP thinks is proper.

  In this sense it's true that Clinton's success didn't change the tilt towards less government. Indeed, his "end of welfare as we know it" might actually have been the watershed for conservatism. They haven't been able to move the ball forward even one down since.

  Bush tried and failed to do individual accounts for Social Security. While he beat Gore, in retrospect, Gore's message won the day: no risky privatization schemes.

  Now Romney is trying again with Ryan's Medicare block grant scheme. If they fail, which seems likely now, it will be clear that there is now a consensus for more government than in this past 30 years.



Akin Makes it So Hard For GOP

    After the October 25 deadline for Akin to get out of the Missouri Senate race came and went, some GOPers seemed to suggest that they might give Akin a "second look."

    Such a strategy, of course, carries with it significant risks, even if Akin had been a model candidate since then. Unfortunately this has been anything but the case. Indeed, Akin's whole argument in staying in was that it's wrong to judge someone wholly on just one sentence or even phrase.

    That might sound in theory not so unreasonable, if the phrase in question were not "legitimate rape."

    It really depends whether or not just a couple words can disqualify someone. Like if I tell you that "experts don't agree on just how many Jews were killed in the Holocaust or indeed whether it really happened. It may have at least been exaggerated."

    Let's face it, if you say this you've disqualified yourself from public life. Akin's comments probably do the same. That this is not unfair is now substantiated by the fact that that in the few days since the deadline has passed, he has made many more verbal "gaffes."

   This is why Jim Cornyn says that he has "no plans" to support Akin:

   "We have no plans to do so,” Cornyn told The Courier-Journal in an interview just a short time ago.

   “I just think that this is not a winnable race,” he said. “We have to make tough calculations based on limited resources and where to allocate it, where it will have the best likelihood of electing a Republican senator.”

   Let's think of what he's said lately. First he castigated Claire McCaskill for being "unldadylike" in their debate, that she was a "caged wildcat."

   Then he suggests it's ok to pay women less than men. Then one of his supporters said he has the resolve of David Koresh. So Akin considers a comparison to David Koresh a compliment?!

  Vote for Todd Akin-he's another David Koresh?

  Then there are his words on equal pay for women:

  AUDIENCE MEMBER: You voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Why do you think it is okay for a woman to be paid less for doing the same work as a man?

 AKIN: Well, first of all, the premise of your question is that I'm making that particular distinction. I believe in free enterprise. I don't think the government should be telling people what you pay and what you don't pay. I think it's about freedom. If someone what’s to hire somebody and they agree on a salary, that's fine, however it wants to work. So, the government sticking its nose into all kinds of things has gotten us into huge trouble.

 Interestingly, I was watching the Reagan-Carter debate in 1980 and when asked about African-Americans and civil rights, Reagan said that employers should be allowed to pay blacks less-he actually suggested a lower minimum wage for them-on the argument that this would raise their employment.

  In any case, there are some GOPers who are coming back to the Akin fold:

  "Republicans want to win control of the Senate, and they say it’s hard to see a path to that goal without Missouri. So, held noses or not, they’re signaling a readiness to give Akin a boost. On Friday, Akin got two more pieces of national good news. Former Missouri Sens. Kit Bond and Jim Talent reversed course and endorsed him, and RNC chair Reince Priebus signaled his group might do the same."

   He sure isn't making it easy for them yet. The week since his staying in the race has become official couldn't have gone better for McCaskill and the Democrats.



Net Jobs are Now Positive for Obama's Term

     About a month ago, after the DNC convention, Romney tried to temper the momentum by claiming that the President had not created a net job during his first term.

    At the time it was technically true although it was basically cherry picking the data nevertheless. First of all there is no justification for counting the huge monthly job losses that begun before the President got into office and lasted until June, 2009.

   As the Dems pointed out in Charlotte, since the stimulus went into effect in February, there had been robust job growth-in the private sector at least. Now, however, new adjusted numbers until March of this year shows that we now have net job growth even if you do factor in the job losses since the President got into office.

  Heather Boushey, the senior economist as the Center for American Progress writes:

  "New data released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the private-sector added 450,000 more jobs as of March 2012 than previously thought. This means that the economy has crossed the threshold and more jobs have been created than lost during President Obama’s term.
This is a remarkable accomplishment—and one that would not have happened without the Recovery Act and other policies developed by this administration and passed by the 111th Congress in 2009."

  "When President Obama was sworn in, the economy was losing jobs to the unprecedented tune of over 20,000 per day. Between the beginning of 2008 and February 2010 when the tide began to turn, the economy lost nearly 8.8 million jobs—4.3 million on Obama’s watch and almost 4.5 million under President Bush’s."

   "In February 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was signed into law and funds began almost immediately moving their way through the economy and the pace of job losses slowed, turning positive a year later. Since February 2010, including the newly revised data, the economy has added 4.4 million total payroll jobs, an average of 135,00 per month."

     To be sure, the numbers aren't all good as yet. However, this is due to the public sector jobs-which Romney and company don't believe are real jobs. Note that Romney plans to actually cut government jobs, reduce the number of teachers-he's said more than once that class size "doesn't necessarily" matter:

    "Even so, today’s data contained another glaring statistic: the economy has lost more than 700,000 public sector jobs since 2009, holding back the overall recovery. Without those losses, our unemployment rate would be at least a full point lower."

    Had Romney's veep passed the President's job's bill that would have done a lot for this problem.

    Of course, the Romney campaign has since gotten over the idea that the economy is a magic bullet for him.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Not the Election they Expected

     Greg Sargent puts it best:

     "The recovery is still shaky at best. Disapproval of Obama on the economy — the number one issue in this election — continues to run high, though that’s changing. Large majorities of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track. How can Obama possibly be winning ?"

      As Sargent has documented well, the trouble is that Americans don't buy the Romney campaign theory that this is a pure referendum that's all the President's fault. Indeed, they've given up on that idea probably the day after the DNC convention when the BLS payroll numbers were only 96,000 and the country yawned.

     Today Krugman looks at how this election has surprised:

      "This really isn’t looking like the election anyone expected. Obviously it’s not the election Romney and the Republicans expected and wanted; but it’s also looking very different from what Democrats expected."

      "What Romney & Co. expected was a simple rejection of Obama because of the weak economy. As Greg Sargent often reminds us, this isn’t how it has played at all. On one side, voters tend to react to recent trends, not the absolute level — and the economy has gotten better in some ways over the past year, though obviously not by a lot. On the other, people do remember the crisis of 2008, which they still blame on Bush, and remain willing to cut Obama substantial slack."

      "But as the polls move strongly in Obama’s direction (yes, I know, it’s all a liberal conspiracy that somehow even includes Fox News), it’s clear at least to me that there’s more going on."

      "The conventional wisdom — which I too bought into — was that Democrats were going to support Obama, but grudgingly and without much enthusiasm. There had been too many disappointments; the golden aura of 2008 was long gone. Meanwhile, Republicans would show their usual unity and discipline, and at best it would be Obama by a nose."

      "Instead, the Republicans appear to be in a shambles — while the Democrats seem incredibly united, and increasingly, dare I say it, enthusiastic. (Mark Blumenthal sees this in the polls, but it’s also just the impression you get.)"

      "How did that happen? Partly it’s because this has become such an ideological election — much more so than 2008. The GOP has made it clear that it has a very different vision of what America should be than that of Democrats, and Democrats have rallied around their cause. Among other things, while we weren’t looking, social issues became a source of Democratic strength, not weakness — partly because the country has changed, partly because the Democrats have finally worked up the nerve to stand squarely for things like reproductive rights."

     "And let me add a speculation: I suspect that in the end Obamacare is turning out to be a big plus, even though it has always had ambivalent polling. The fact is that Obama can point to a big achievement that will survive if he is reelected, perish if he isn’t; health insurance for 50 million or so Americans (30 million from the ACA, another 20 who would lose coverage if Romney/Ryan Medicaid cuts happen) is enough to cure people of the notion that it doesn’t matter who wins."

    "All of this in turn has an implication that Republicans won’t like — assuming that Rasmussen doesn’t have a special insight into the truth denied to all other pollsters, and that Obama does in fact win with a solid margin. The right is already set up to blame poor Mitt, claiming that he lost because he wasn’t conservative enough. But that’s not what we’re seeing; it looks as if voters are rejecting the right’s whole package, not just the messenger."

     "As I said, not the election anyone was expecting — but a happy surprise for some, and a nasty shock for others."

     No doubt the deire to define this as bad messaging by Romney is going to be very strong and it won't shock me if the GOP settles on it. Remember that even now they're in denial about why George W. Bush's Administration was such a flop.

     What it comes down to I think is that Americans are a lot more sophisticated about the economy than was imagined. This simply referendum has been a flop:

      "One way to explain what’s happening can be found in Ron Brownstein’s epic, detailed piece this morning examining how Americans view the economy and the recovery. There’s a lot to chew on in here — Brownstein explains why voters may not be seeing Mitt Romney’s “are you better off” question as a relevant one. Brownstein digs into recent National Journal polling to show Obama is leading not just among those who are better off, but also among those who say their economic status is unchanged. How can that be? Here’s his explanation:
many Americans feel the economy is experiencing fundamental changes beyond the reach of any president to reshape quickly, or perhaps at all. Although some respondents said they believed that the 2012 election would determine the level of opportunity available for future generations, many others said that the nation’s economic trials reflect problems that have accumulated over time and are unlikely to be resolved soon.

      "I continue to believe commentators are being overly simplistic in interpreting what voters mean when they say they disapprove of Obama’s economic performance. Obviously many of them see that performance as disqualifying; nearly half the country will vote for Romney. But many may simply be expressing disappointment with Obama for his inability to engineer a faster recovery, while simultaneously finding that understandable, given the circumstances. They have dialed down expectations of a president’s ability to fix the economy quickly. As a result, they are not only willing to give Obama’s approach more time and are open to the idea that he has put us on the path to recovery; they are subjecting Romney’s claim that he has answers that can magically engineer a quick turnaround to more skepticism. Other polling bears this out."    


Stocks Off Lows After Spain's Stress Tests

     The data for Friday has been up and down. There was disappointment in Chicago PMI which has kept stocks depressed. However, consumer sentiment for September, though lower than the preliminary reading, was the best in 4 months. Then the stress tests gave investors some hope:

     "Results of the Span's bank stress tests showed that the financial system's capital shortfall is around 60 billion euros in a stressed scenario, while capital shortfall for all nationalized banks is 49 billion euros."

     So Draghii's "anything necessary" continues to keep hopes rising.

     "Stocks eased off their worst levels Friday as results of Spain's bank stress tests were mostly in line with expectations, but a weaker-than-expected Chicago PMI report kept a lid on gains."

     "Despite the weak session, major averages are poised to log strong gains for the quarter, with the Dow up nearly 4 percent and the S&P and Nasdaq up more than 5 percent each. (Read More: What Happened to the ‘Worst Month of the Year?’)"

     So we've done very well for a September.

      "The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's final reading on consumer sentiment rose to 78.3 from 74.3 in August, the highest level since May."
      "Still, it was shy of economists' forecasts for 79, according to a Reuters poll, and gave up some of the advance seen in September's preliminary reading when the index climbed to 79.2."

     We also saw consumer expectations rise sharply-according to Gallup it seems that the Democratic convention had a big hand in this, particularly in exciting the Democrat base.

     "Consumer expectations improved strongly, rising to 73.5 from 65.1, also the highest since May. More consumers expected the unemployment rate to fall than to rise, while twice as many survey respondents expected economic growth than those that anticipated a downturn."

     What bodes as well as anything is the continued rise in the stock market. To the extent that it's a forward indicator, good times are ahead. No doubt, part of why Romney didn't give us any policy detail about his 12 million new jobs he promised is that the next four years will likely be better than the last four no matter what.

      Then with QEInfinity the market has perhaps a bottomless capacity to believe.



Romney Less Favorable Than Bush?!

     It's getting bad. This is a very good sign of just how unpopular Romney is. He already has historically low levels of popularity for a Presidential candidate. It's unprecedented for a candidate to be upside down in favorability this late in a campaign.

    "If Mitt Romney was hoping to distance himself from former President George W. Bush, a new poll has some news that might trouble the Republican presidential nominee: Bush posted higher favorability ratings than Romney."

     "The national survey, conducted by Bloomberg News and released Wednesday, found that Bush received a favorable rating of 46 percent, while Romney's favorable rating was 43 percent. Forty-nine percent of respondents gave Bush an unfavorable rating, compared to 50 percent of respondents who gave Romney an unfavorable rating."

     "Bush's favorability ratings also bested those of the Republican Party at large (41 percent favorable, 46 percent unfavorable) and Vice President Joe Biden (42 percent favorable, 45 percent unfavorable)."

     "A wave of recent polls has shown Romney struggling to keep up with President Barack Obama. A lower favorability rating than Bush, who was recently named the most unpopular living U.S. president, shows how difficult it has been for the GOP nominee to resonate with voters during his current presidential bid."

     "Romney has avoided mentioning Bush's name while campaigning across the country, often referring to the former president only as Obama's "predecessor." Bush was also noticeably absent from the Republican National Convention in Tampa in August, but has stated his support of Romney.
"I'm interested in politics. I'm a supporter of Mitt Romney," he said in an interview in July. "I hope he does well. But you know, he can do well without me."

     That's nice of Bush-huh? He can do well without me. Maybe he can't. Turns out he can't even do as well as Bush and Bush earned his unpopularity over a period of years.


Todd Akin Does It Again

     He said he "misspoke" regarding his famous legitimate rape comments. Were his latest comments about Claire McCaskill a mistake, where he claimed she was "unladylike" in her first debate?

     No. Instead, he's doubling down:

     "On the heels of saying Claire McCaskill's performance at the Missouri Senate debate wasn't "ladylike," Todd Akin compared Democratic Senator's demeanor at the debate to that of a caged animal.

    "The first two minutes, wow, it's like somebody let a wildcat out of the cage," Akin told supporters Thursday according to the Los Angeles Times. "She was just furious and attacking in every different direction, which was a little bit of a surprise to us."

     Well this is a political campaign where you're trying to take away her Senate seat? Was she not supposed to fight back, Congressman?

     What does it say about Missouri that this race is still so close? No doubt, we wanted it to be close before Tuesday-the 25th-so Akin would think he can win and stay in the race.

     He's just a gift that keeps on giving. Dems across the country should just keep quoting him.

Romney's Magical Debates

     The Romney team has been talking up the debates since the end of the RNC convention. Right away, we were told that Ryan would be out in public more as Romney began preparation for debates in well over a month at the time.

     We've continued to hear about the debates and how this is Romney's last, best chance, to finally introduce himself to the American people.

     There are all kinds of problems with this strategy. For one thing the convention was supposed to do this. Where is the history of debates deciding elections? It always seemed that too much was being put on them anyway.

     Romney also cast himself as the person who over-crams for an exam. He comes in having announced to the world that he's studied for 50 straight hours.

     This has enabled the President to be the person who only studied for about 5 hours. Just the other day the Obama team was pointing out that he hasn't had as much time to prepare as he would have liked-seeing that the demands of running the country never stop.

     So the Romney team has hopelessly raised the bar when ideally you want to manage expectations. It means Romney has to simply set the world on fire in the debates. This from a guy who can't even set the world on fire in his stump speeches. They've had to send Ryan with him to generate more excitement.

    In any case, is it really plausible that Romney will entirely decimate the President in the debates? He doesn't strike me as such a great debater-recall his $10,000 bet with Rick Perry.

    I doubt it. However, look at a case when there really was decimation: Kerry's beating up Bush in the first debate in 2004. Still, in the end, it wasn't enough.

    It seems now, finally, the Romney team wants to lower expectations, and also admit that the debates aren't likely to be game changers:

    "In a memo sent to surrogates today, Romney senior adviser Beth Myers sets the expectations for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney low - very low - compared to the "ample rhetorical gifts" of his opponent. The memo says President Obama has a "significant advantage" heading into the first debate."
    "President Obama is a uniquely gifted speaker, and is widely regarded as one of the most talented political communicators in modern history," Myers writes, calling Obama a "universally acclaimed public speaker."
    "Myers' memo is the latest in pre-debate jockeying by both campaigns to set their candidate's expectations low, while raising expectations for their opponent."

   "Since he won't - and can't - talk about his record, he'll talk about Mitt Romney. We fully expect a 90-minute attack ad aimed at tearing down his opponent."
    "Myers concludes that the election will not be decided by the debates."

     I like that line about the President not being able to talk about his message. Considering that Romney has just again touted passing ObamaCare in Massachusetts and getting everyone insurance, it shouldn't be so hard. Why should the President have a hard time touting his record if his opponent doesn't?    

     Another problem is that with early voting, many are already casting their ballot before they even get to see the debates. Obama voters in the swing states are far more likely to vote early than Romney supporters.

Anti Muslim Filmmaker Held Without Bail

     While we do have freedom of speech in our country and it's one of the most important cornerstones of our civil society, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula should be in jail.

     Yes there is freedom of speech. However, he has said the reason for the film was to cause exactly the violence we've seen. Freedom of speech doesn't cover yelling fire in a crowded theater. For the record, he is not being held for that at this point,, but violating the conditions of his parole:

     "A federal judge on Thursday ordered the producer of the anti-Muslim film “Innocence of Muslims” held without bail, following his arrest for allegedly violating the terms of his probation, ABC News reports."

    "U.S. District Judge Suzanne Segal said the court had a “lack of trust” in Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, who has been identified as the producer of a crude, offensive film that has been blamed for violence and demonstrations in the Middle East this month."

    "On September 14, TPM reported that the U.S. Probation Office for the Central District of California was reviewing Nakoula’s case. In 2010, Nakoula had been sentenced to 21 months in federal prison on bank fraud charges, and ordered not to use computers, cell phones, or the Internet for five years unless he got an OK from a probation officer. The shortened clip of “Innocence of Muslims” that was uploaded to YouTube in July was uploaded by a user named Sam Bacile, an alias which has been linked to Nakoula by media reports."

   What Nakoula did was really an incitement to violence. That is far from an innocent act. One way or the other it's good to see him feeling the heat. The idea that he could do such a thing with impunity would be very disconcerting.

Richard Mourdock Finds the Center

     While it seems that the conservatives will try to spin this impending Romney loss-I'm not saying "if" but others can if they want-as the failure of Romney to run as a real conservative, to be a real conservative, there are signs that suggest otherwise.

       For the attmept to claim conservatism is not being repudiated seen here:

      One example is what we looked at in the last post-that Romney is now again touting RomneyCare with some tacit permission from Republcians. Vote for me, I'm compassionate and passed ObamaCare. On my first day in office, I promise to repeal ObamaCare. Whiplash much?

      Romney again touting RomneyCare

      And now we have Richard Mourdock, a Tea Party extraordinare suddenly making moderate noises:

      "Richard Mourdock became one of the tea party's biggest winners of the 2012 primary season when he knocked off veteran Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar in a brutal campaign built on his contention that Lugar was too old, too out of touch and too friendly with Democrats — a RINO, Republican in name only."
      "But the movement's biggest RINO hunter is now changing his tune as he tries to woo moderate voters in a tight race that stands as a key test of the tea party's ability to win outside the nation's most conservative states."
       "Mourdock is matched in the general election against moderate Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly, who is running even in recent polls despite Indiana's Republican tilt. Suddenly, gone is the strident rhetoric in which Mourdock proclaimed that bipartisanship meant Democrats coming over to Republicans' thinking and that winning meant he would "inflict my opinion on someone else." In its place are support for parts of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul, pledges to protect Democratic-championed programs like Social Security and Medicare, and even the once-shunned notion of compromise."

     So this is the true fruit of all the Tea Party labor. They've pushed the GOP primaries so far Right that the GOP candidate is too far Right for the mainstream. Yet Boehner and McConnell claim they won't compromise more in the next Congress?

     We'll see. I never want to underestimate the perversity of the GOP but at the end of the day all politicians want to be re-elected. The conservatives have been on the ascendency in the party since  Goldwater's rise in 1964. It will be interesting to see if the kind of loss the GOP seems to be headed for will change this dynamic.


Romney Again Touting RomneyCare

      I mean at this point, the Surgeon General needs to issue a warning that trying to follow Mitt Romney's governing philosophy increases your chances for acute whiplash disorder by 800%. You simply have to be kidding me.

     Like Clinton says: "As another President said "There you go again."

     "A little more than 24 hours have passed since Mitt Romney took the base-alienating step of touting the health care law he signed while governor of Massachusetts in an interview with NBC. Unlike the last time his campaign heralded his signature achievement, however, the conservative grumbling was relatively muted."

     "Why? Because, Republicans say, things are so bad for Romney that they’ll even let him talk up his health care law."

      "Romney raised the law unprompted during a Wednesday interview with NBC, saying the Massachusetts law — which is very much like the national health care reform law he hopes to eliminate — is evidence that he has a heart."

      “[D]on’t forget — I got everybody in my state insured,” Romney said. “One hundred percent of the kids in our state had health insurance. I don’t think there’s anything that shows more empathy and care about the people of this country than that kind of record.”

     I can see why the GOP might finally feel like relaxing a little. If they had done so a little earlier they might be in better shape. As it is, at this point, this can only give Romney flipflop of a campaign an even more acute sense of cognitive dissonance.

   “Conservatives have bigger fish to fry than worry about doctrine right now,” said Rick Wilson, a Republican consultant based in Florida."

   "There were some detractors, of course."

    “Facepalm,” read the headline on Twitchy, a conservative Twitter aggregation site.

    “The obvious problem, of course, is that if there isn’t ‘anything that shows more empathy and care about the people of this country than that kind of record,’ then Obama wins the empathy argument … because his policies involve helping more people get health insurance,” wrote the National Review’s Katrina Trinko.

     Bigger fish to fry? I thought ObamaCare was the bane-or should we say Bain-of the existence of conservatives. I thought this election was about two starkly different philosophies of government in terms of size, scale, and what the government's role is in the economy?

     Ms. Trinko is right.

     If you're going to attack the President as being LBJ 2.0 what real example is there compared to ObamaCare. Yet Romney is now saying I have a heart because I passed ObamaCare. Now vote for me so I can on my first day back in office repeal: ObamaCare.

     At this point, I'm just really confused. What exactly is the burning reason we have to vote out President Obama? Bill Kristol has already said that the President actually did a decent job stabilizing the economy after the Bush meltdown.

     Kristol did say, however, that Romney should run an ideological campaign about the size of government. However, if you say that ObamaCare is ok, in fact, that Romney did it himself and this proves he has a heart then haven't you completely undercut your argument that Obama's an out of control God hating socialist?

    Recently folks like Joe Scarborough have said that Romney's a great guy, a great businessman, and a great father: he's just a terrible politician. That may be. However, he missed his calling. He'd win the Olympic Gold in flipflopping and cognitive dissonance.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

How Will GOP Explain Romney's Loss?

     No doubt you could argue that I should qualify that with "if" he loses. However, I'm not going to. I don't see why we can't just call a spade a spade. If you continue to doubt it check today's polls out Gallup which show the President with a 6 point lead or Nate Silver's 538 that shows Obama with a 81.8 percent chance of victory. Today Nate admitted this race could end up looking a lot more like 2008 than the pundits ever dreamed.

     Anyway, when Romney loses how is the GOP going to explain this, what will they take from it?

     One thing you already see is unleashing a kind of Holy War against the pollsters. First it was the fact-checkers, now it's the pollsters.

     Rush has been bashing the pollsters as has Fox News:

     "It’s clear that Fox & Friends has a tricky relationship with data. But on the show Thursday morning, the hosts took that relationship to a whole new level."

      "After a raft of new polls showed Obama opening up leads in swing states, the Friends flew in to full-blown conspiracy mode about what’s really behind the data."

      "Parroting the latest Republican meme that national polls oversample Democrats, host Steve Doocy threw in to the mix the possibility that pollsters are using voter turnout from 2008 to guide who they should be asking. And why would the “left-based mainstream media” do this? Doocy had an answer."

      “Well, two reasons,” he said. “One, perhaps, to keep Mitt Romney’s donors from coughing up more cash. And two, to keep people from doing early voting.”

      "Co-host Gretchen Carlson had another theory: “I do think there’s a subliminal message in these daily polling things, which isn’t always great for the voter.”

       "One problem with the theories: FOX’s own polling also shows Obama surging in swing states. A survey released by the network just last week showed the president leading Romney by no fewer than five points in Ohio, Virginia and Florida."    

      Fox won't let that little detail get in the way. The other thing you're starting to see is that Mitt isn't a real conservative. So this is why he's losing. Bill Kristol on Sunday gave us an extreme version of this by saying that yeah, the President's team has done a decent job of cleaning up the financial crisis but that what Romney should do is make this an ideological contest on the size of government.

     No doubt part of Romney's problem is that he has given us no specifics. Yes the Ryan plan is specific all right. However, Americans don't like those specifics-Medicare privatization.

     It does seem, however, that this will be the ideology the GOP may settle on. The conservatives will try to make that case anyway. As to the idea of Chuck Schumer among others that this will lead to a rejuvenation of GOP moderates, the trouble with this is I'm not sure there are many moderates left in the GOP.

     Who are the GOP moderates of today?

      "Today, the media and their pollsters are to blame for Mitt Romney's political troubles, according to Romney's fans. But if Romney does lose this year, blame will quickly shift to the Republican presidential nominee himself, his shortcomings, and his ability to articulate a conservative vision for the country. And the fallout from a Romney loss has the potential to reverberate through the Republican Party for a decade."

        "One can imagine the thought process: Romney, the moderate Massachusetts
flip-flopper, was insufficiently clear in articulating the views of the conservative movement and allowed his own shortcomings to distract from the cause, both of beating Obama and of advancing the agenda."

        "The blame game has already begun in some quarters. "There are a lot of elitist Republicans who have spent several years telling us Mitt Romney was the only electable Republican," conservative blogger Erick Erickson wrote on Tuesday. "They conspired to shut out others, tear down others, and prop up Romney with the electability argument. He is now not winning against the second coming of Jimmy Carter. They know there will be many conservatives, should Mitt Romney lose, who will not be satisfied until every bridge is burned with these jerks, hopefully with the elitist jerks tied to the bridge as it burns."

       "The schism within the Republican Party began during George W. Bush's administration ("They think the conservative movement will give them a pass just as the movement did with No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, Harriet Miers, TARP, etc.," Erickson added, ticking off Bush's greatest hits). The tea party movement, with its antispending message, stood in contrast with Bush's big-government conservatism, a virtual rebuke of party leadership, which the activist class believed had lost its way. If Romney loses, that rage at the establishment — Erickson's "elites" — will only grow."

        This is always the takeaway for the Right. They still delude themselves that Bush was a big government conservative.

        History does show a resourcefulness of the Right. After 1964 it looked like conservatism was repudiated after Goldwater's landslide loss. However, they rallied and 16 years they got the Reagan revolution.

        So we'll see. The truth is, however, is that Romney has flipflopped is he knows he can't run as the Right wants him to.

       Unlike 1980, conservatism has now been in power for 30 years, so it's not as if people don't feel they know what they get with it. The results have not been pretty.

       What is a fact is that since Goldwater which begun the ascendancy of the Right within the GOP nothing has slowed the momentum of conservatism within the party. No matter what, the GOP moves further and further to the Right.

        If they don't after this it would be the first time in 50 years that Centrists get the upper hand. That's hard to imagine.



NFL Referee Lockout is Over

     Yesterday in discussing the idea of a boycott of the NFL, I admitted that I probably couldn't do it myself, but that maybe simply bitching and complaining might be enough especially after the debacle on Monday night with the Packers and Seahawks.

     Score one for bitching and complaining. The refs are coming back to work.

     "It's time to welcome Ed Hochuli and the rest of the NFL officials back into your life! More importantly, it's time to say farewell to the replacement refs. A deal between the NFL and the NFLRA has been agreed upon on Wednesday evening, according to Greg Aiello of the NFL.
The ref lockout is over."

     "Beginning with reports by Chris Mortensen of ESPN and Judy Batista of The New York Times earlier in the day that an agreement was close, a steady drumbeat of positive dispatches emerged from negotiations that reportedly gained intensity after the officiating debacle on "Monday Night Football," when the Seahawks defeated the Packers, 14-12, by way of disputed touchdown as time expired.

      I'm sure they did gain intensity. What happened Monday night put this in the national conscious. The NFL realized that they are really jeopardizing their brand by putting such a blatantly subpar product field.

      The part that was particularly odious about the NFL's action was that it wasn't a question of being unable to afford it.

      It's not like this is Detroit hanging from a thread about to go bankrupt. The NFL didn't say they couldn't afford to pay the refs, just that they see everyone else dumping on the unions and lowballing labor so why shouldn't they?

      "As noted by Alicia Jessop of Forbes, the agreed upon 8-year pact is the longest ever between the referees' union and the NFL. The deal allows current officials to keep their disputed pensions through 2016 and will switch them over to 401ks in 2017, per Mike Sando of"

      "That the union officials were able to stave off the pension freeze that the NFL had been aiming for, grandfathering existing pension plans into the new deal, makes this seem less than the decisive victory that the NFL had hoped for when it went to the replacement officials."

     HuffPo quotes from the Associated Press:

     "The NFL claimed its offers have included annual pay increases that could earn an experienced official more than $200,000 annually by 2018. The NFLRA has disputed the value of the proposal, insisting it means an overall reduction in compensation."

     "Replacement refs aren't new to the NFL. They worked the first week of games in 2001 before a deal was reached. But those officials came from the highest level of college football; the current replacements do not. Their ability to call fast-moving NFL games drew mounting criticism through Week 3, climaxing last weekend, when ESPN analyst Jon Gruden called their work "tragic and comical."

    So it's something of a union victory-and the NFL will go on. It's a pretty sweet deal. As HuffPo says "Our long national nightmare is over." LOL.

Jobless Claims Fall to a Two Month Low

     So how is the economy looking these days? It's a mixed bag as today's numbers were. However, what's good is that the market hasn't given back any of the big gains the day of Bernanke's announcement of QE Infinity-while many of its detractors call it that I actually love the name myself as a want to be bull.

    We do see signs that the housing market is in recovery. Also, it's very positive to see the coming down of bond yields in Spain and Italy.

    Krugman lauds Draghii

    Today we saw jobless claims drop sharply from 385,000 to 359,000. This was after 4 weeks that mostly showed them increasing:

    "The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits fell last week to the lowest level in two months."

     "Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 26,000 to a seasonally adjusted 359,000, the lowest level since July, the Labor Department said on Thursday. The prior week's figure was revised up to show 3,000 more applications than previously reported."
     "Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims falling to 378,000 last week. The four-week moving average for new claims, a better measure of labor market trends, fell 4,500 to 374,000, breaking five straight weeks of increases."
     "A Labor Department official said there were no special factors influencing the report and no states had been estimated."
     Then, just for some comic relief, watch CNBC suddenly veer off into editorializing. Listen to this:
     "The labor market has been mired in weakness as worries about higher taxes and deep government spending cuts in January, the ongoing debt problems in Europe and slowing global growth lead employers to be cautious about ramping up hiring."
     "The unemployment rate has been stuck above 8 percent for more than three years, the first time this has happened since the Great Depression, a hurdle for President Barack Obama's quest for a second term in office."
      Yes that fiscal cliff is an ongoing obsession of the David Brooks' media-the Very Serious People. Actual people-of the kind of whom it's Romney's job not to worry about-not so much.
      I also like that little jibe about how 8 percent unemployment is a hurdle for the President's re-election. Some hurdle. Right now Nate Silver gives him an almost 82% chance of winning re-election.
      Rick Lowry and Bill Kristol want to turn the page on the referendum-as it's been a dud. Meanwhile CNBC still thinks this is a pure referendum election. How quaint. Remember back when everyone used to think this election was going to be super close?

Krugman: Two Cheers for Draghii

     You don't often hear it, but Krugman makes the point that ECB President Draghii is doing a pretty good job. Since his "going Chuck Norriss" or maybe even channeling a little Ben Bernanke, the markets have given him a thumbs up-particularly since August.

     We've seen both Spanish and Italian bond yields drop from the 7% range back down to the 5% range. However, the problem is the need for internal devaluation. The Robert Samuelsons of the world of course, believe that everything is about "more pain, more gain."

     Krugman's title is almost incomprehensible to a Samuelon, a Wall St. Journal editorial page writer, or a Republican of any stripe: "pointless pain."

     For those who get excited about nothing but austerity, there is no such thing as pointless pain. The more pain the better.

     For more about the austerity lovers:

      Krugman praises Draghii for getting the bond yields down:

      "Good for him. But you still need “internal devaluation”: a sharp fall in costs and prices relative to the core. And that’s a slow, painful process."

       This is due to the major current account deficits the periphery countries suffered vis a vis Germany during the boom years of the early 2000s.

       "The basic story of the euro crisis remains the same: it’s essentially a balance of payments crisis, misinterpreted as a fiscal crisis, and the key question is whether internal devaluation is really workable."

       "What? OK: the roots of the euro crisis lie not in government profligacy but in huge capital flows from the core (mainly Germany) to the periphery during the good years. These capital flows fueled a peripheral boom, and sharply rising wages and prices in the GIPSI countries relative to Germany."

       "Then the music stopped."

        "The combination of deeply depressed peripheral economies (which meant surging budget deficits) and fears of a euro crackup turned this into an attack on peripheral-government bonds. But the root remains the balance of payments/cost problem. And any resolution must involve getting costs and prices back in line."

        So Draghii has done a good job. The problem are austerity lovers who think causing us more pain makes us more virtuous:

        "I really do think Draghi has done very well. But he can’t make internal devaluation work on his own, and he can’t save Europe if its leaders continue to think that gratuitous infliction of pain is sound policy."


The Closeness of 2012 May Have Been Exaggerated

     This is the story that the media has tried to spoonfeed us for the last two years: this is going to be a very close race, the President is in a lot of trouble because of the economy, he may lose. More than anything, this race will be nothing like the laugher over McCain in 2008.

     However, today Nate Silver admits that maybe this has been assumed too prematurely:

     "There’s no point in putting it gently: Mitt Romney had one of his worst polling days of the year on Wednesday."

     "It began with a series of polls from The New York Times, CBS News and Quinnipiac University, released early Wednesday morning, which gave President Obama leads of between 9 and 11 points in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Later in the day, Mr. Romney got polls showing unfavorable numbers for him in Colorado and Iowa."
     "Unlike many recent days, when Mr. Obama’s national polls were slightly less euphoric than his swing state surveys, Wednesday’s national polls seemed to support the notion that Mr. Obama has a clear lead in the race. The Gallup national tracking poll gave Mr. Obama a six-point lead among registered voters, close to his high mark on the year in that survey. The online tracking poll conducted by Ipsos gave him a six-point lead among likely voters. Another online tracking poll, from the RAND Corporation, put Mr. Obama’s lead at roughly seven and a half percentage points, his largest of the year in that poll. And a national poll for Bloomberg produced by the pollster J. Ann Selzer, who has a strong track record, put Mr. Obama six points ahead."

     Based on what the polls now show, the President only trails in two states that he won in 2008. Actually, as he's now slipped into a tie in North Carolina, it's only one:

     "If the election were held today, however, it could look pretty ugly for Mr. Romney. The “now-cast” has Mr. Obama favored in all the states he won in 2008 except for Indiana, where he is several points behind, and North Carolina, which it shows as an almost exact tie. It would project Mr. Obama to win 337 electoral votes, slightly fewer than the 365 that he won in 2008."

     Romney has said that there's no need to worry over the polls, that they can be made to show anything and some he likes better than others.

     The trouble is while Romney has little choice but try to sound optimistic this just puts him in the position of yet again denying empirical reality and so sounding out of touch.

     At this point-and really, it's not so early; history shows that the race is usually much more settled in late September-the only poll that Romney can like is Rasmussen.

     Rasmussen now shows him with a 2 point lead nationally. All other polls now show the President with significant leads in the 5 or 6 point area. Gallup, which the Romney people liked last week now shows the President up by 6(50-44).

     Nate's 538 poll now gives the President an 81.9% chance of winning the election. He says that if the election were held today it would be 97.8%. The reason for the difference is the model is still taking some bite out of Obama's numbers because of a presumed convention bounce.

     The amount, however, is dissipating and should be gone within the week. The other reason is because of the separate economic indicator which has the President has a smaller 3.4% favorite to win. The economic effect also drops as we get closer. By the day of the election it's gone. For now, as the economy is not doing great-but not truly recessionary-it costs the President some in its poll though he gains by being the incumbent.

     However, as Greg Sargent has argued, Americans don't see this as a referendum on the economy. Indeed, no one in the GOP thinks this will work anymore either. We actually had Kristol saying last Sunday that the President's team has done a decent job clearing up the Bush crisis, Romney should make this an ideological debate about the next 4 years.

     For more see Rich Lowry coming out against the referendum.

     Truth is while he says "end the referendum" it's long been over.

Ryan Distancing Himself From Romney?

     It's truly getting painful for Romney now. If this were a fight the humane thing would be to call it. It seems that Ryan is now "going rogue" as Palin did in 2008.

    However, it's not hard to understand why, seeing videos like this one below.

   When you're the Presidential candidate for the US and you have to remind the people at a campaign stop that you're on top of the ticket not your VP, it's clear that the cow has long left the barn. With everyone cheering and chanting "Ryan, Ryan, Ryan..." Romney interjected and coaxed the crowd, "Romney-Ryan, Romney-Ryan, Romney-Ryan! There you go!"

    Actually it's been reported that the Romney campaign will have him going out a lot more with Ryan in the future. It seems that Romney finds it hard to excite many of the crowds when it's him alone.

    It sounds like Ryan is now taking some advice to heart that he separate himself from the "stench of Romney."

    "I hate to say this, but if Ryan wants to run for national office again, he’ll probably have to wash the stench of Romney off of him,” Craig Robinson, a former political director of the Republican Party of Iowa, told The New York Times on Sunday.

    "Coming from a resident of Iowa, a state where people are polite even to soybeans, this was a powerful condemnation of the Republican nominee."

     Read more:

     Actually what's notable is that Ryan has now released yet another ad for his House seat-his third one recently. As Delong said, this is puzzling. Shouldn't being on the Presidential ticket be enough exposure? Delong chalked it off to Ryan being clueless, but maybe it suggests that Ryan realizes that being on the Romney ticket is not necessarily the resume booster you'd think.

     "Even before the stench article appeared, there was a strong sign that Ryan was freeing himself from the grips of the Romney campaign. It began after his disastrous appearance on Friday before AARP in New Orleans. Ryan delivered his remarks in the style dictated by his Romney handlers: Stand behind the lectern, read the speech as written and don’t stray from the script."

     "Ryan brought his 78-year-old mother with him and introduced her to the audience, which is usually a sure crowd pleaser."

     "But when Ryan began talking about repealing “Obamacare” because he said it would harm seniors, one woman in the crowd shouted, “Lie!” Another shouted “Liar!” and the crowd booed Ryan lustily."

     "Who boos a guy in front of his 78-year-old mother? Other 78-year-old mothers."

     "That was Friday, and that was the end of Ryan following the game plan. At a certain point, all running mates on failing campaigns feel they must break free from the manacles placed on them by the top of the ticket. Sarah Palin began pursuing her own path once she learned that John McCain was having strategy sessions with his morning bowl of Farina."

      This is becoming an ongoing theme for Republican Presidential candidates. It started in 2008, this one seems to repeating all the same mishaps as McCain.


The WSJ's Crocodile Tears for the Middle Class

     Sean Fieler had an op-ed in the Journal editorial page today feigning concern over the tough plight of America's middle class. First of all, if WSJ cared a wit about the middle class, it wouldn't be supporting Mitt Romney with his regressive tax cut and the Ryan budget.

     Of course, there is nothing that excites them more than the Ryan budget.

     Fieler is the president of Equinox Partners, L.P., a New York-based hedge fund, is chairman of the American Principles Project, a Washington advocacy group. How much Mr. Master of the Universe is concerned about the little guy you can only imagine.

    To be sure, it's preferable for him than voicing his real concerns: pity the billionaire. Fieler starts:

    "With the Republican Party committed to a gold commission and the Federal Reserve committed to easy money, a substantive debate about the principles underpinning our monetary system is finally in the offing. For sound money to carry the day, Republicans will need to do more than point out the still-hypothetical risks of easy money. The GOP will have to detail the harm that the middle class has already suffered as a result of a policy of low but persistent levels of inflation."

    The GOP: party of pain-for you. Their level of sadism knows no bounds. You can be sure that if the GOP supports it, it's against the interests of the middle class. I look forward to this "serious discussion" in favor of gold buggism. As Paul Ryan supports not just a return to the gold standard, but the gold coins standard-ie, a return not to the 1800s but the 1700s-maybe he'll start the conversation by treating us to one of his famous powerpoint sessions.

    "A little inflation appears to be a free lunch, lubricating the economy and gradually erasing past financial mistakes. But the nature of the free lunch is that its costs aren't absent—they're just distributed broadly. And in the case of low but steady inflation, the broadly distributed costs are borne by the middle class. Over time, rising prices have eroded American workers' standard of living. And, over time, the Federal Reserve's persistent easy money hurts the very person it is presumably intended to help, the American worker."

     We know how much the GOP hates a free lunch, unless it's for them and their rich friends. What's clear is that no matter how much the middle class loses, it will never be enough for the GOP loving Journal. The passion for austerity and Robert Samuelon's "settling for less" is bottomless.

      Fieler now gives us a history lesson that shows us-you guessed it-the problems all started with Keynes who weaned us onto the idea that a little inflation can be salutary.

      "The notion that modest inflation is helpful to labor dates to John Maynard Keynes's "General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money." Keynes pointed out that the supply of labor is not a function of real wages alone. Rather, the instance in which the supply of labor is determined solely by real wages is a special case that fits into his broader "General Theory," which showed the strong influence that observed wages have over the supply of labor."

      "He noted workers' strong preference for a 2% wage increase in a 4% inflation environment to a 2% decrease in wages during a period of constant prices. But he also drew from this preference the obvious policy conclusion: A constantly rising price level can be used to make actual declines in wages more  palatable, thereby reducing conflict with labor and leading to higher short-run employment."

      "The Federal Reserve doesn't just understand workers' tendency to use observed prices as a proxy for real prices; under Chairman Ben Bernanke's leadership, the Fed has become increasingly bold in the exploitation of this tendency. With inflationary expectations not yet unsettled by the Federal Reserve's $2 trillion balance-sheet expansion, Mr. Bernanke has committed the Fed to an open-ended round of quantitative easing in hopes of trading a little extra inflation for a little short-term employment."

      "The problem with Keynes's theory and the Federal Reserve's action—a problem that both Keynes and Mr. Bernanke long ago recognized—is that easy money only boosts employment in the short run. And, as Mr. Bernanke must now recognize, contrary to Keynes's assertion, we're not all dead in the long run."

       So Fieler believes even a little inflation is calamitous. No surprise that he got in a dig over Keynes' "the long run." Nothing offends the Right wing austerity loving position more than that off the cuff comment of Keynes. Yet, there's surely truth in it. There are Austrians, including in his lifetime, Hayek himself, who absurdly claim that we should make policy decisions with the view to how it might even effect the economy in 30 years.

       It ought to be obvious that this is impossible. Fieler goes on to cry his crocodile tears for the American worker:

       "The more than five-fold increase in the median income of the American household since 1971, to $50,000 from $9,000, certainly provides the clear appearance of progress. But after the dollar's 82% loss of purchasing power over the same period is factored in, the median household income rose just 12%. This much more modest increase is largely the result of the growing prevalence of two-income households."

       "The median real income for working men over the same 40-year period rose just 8%. And that improvement only accrued to the ever-shrinking percentage of men fortunate enough to still have full-time jobs—just 67%, according to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, within a percentage point of the lowest level on record since the figure was first recorded in 1948."

       I find the period he chooses somewhat misleading. Why not look at the last 30 years, rather than the last 40? It was in the last 30 years that we've seen median income totally stagnant. Ronald Reagan asked us in 1980 if we were better off than we were 4 years ago.

       Mr. Reagan, Americans aren't better off today than they were 30 years ago. And what's interesting is that what started this downward trajectory is the opposite of what Fieler blames. It was actually Volcker's disinflation that was the seminal event in this.

        Contrary to Fieler, the story of the last 30 years is not inflation but disinflation. As to how workers fare we can compare the pre-Volcker era and the post-Volcker era. By this gauge it's not even close.

        "Having successfully protected the American worker from the sharp message of the market, the Federal Reserve is powerless to protect the American worker from the forces of technology and globalization reshaping the world economy. Recognizing the failure of so many American workers to adjust to the demands of the global market place, Mr. Bernanke has spoken passionately about the importance of education. But, the chairman's speeches aside, the only real support the Federal Reserve is offering the middle class is help in financing ever-growing levels of public assistance."

       "The alternative to this unhealthy status quo is clear. The Federal Reserve needs to stop infantilizing American workers and start providing them with the clear message that only long-run stable prices can provide. To retrain, to adjust, to compete, the American worker needs the market's unvarnished truth. This truth will in turn break the cycle in which American workers mistake the appearance of price stability for actual price stability, a mistake for which they receive the appearance of progress without its substance."

       "The recognition that persistent, low-level inflation leads to lower, not higher, long-term employment will also clarify the organizing principle of our monetary system. The Federal Reserve was not created to address an employment problem. The Fed was set up to ensure bank solvency, a prime directive from which it has not wavered."

       "With the Federal Reserve's underlying mandate clear, we can weigh sound money that benefits the American worker against easy money that benefits the banks and leveraged financial institutions. Framed properly, gold money that holds its value over time will be clearly recognized as the best system for the American worker—if not the overleveraged banker."

       Actually, a failure of bank solvency was a major economic problem.

       It takes someone out of touch to the extent of a Mitt Romney to believe that workers have been protected from "the sharp message of the market." For 30 years we've had that message preached-that we must submit to it's sharp message. I think it's time for a change of pace, a less sharp message.

       We have had low inflation-we've just come out of the Great Moderation. What we saw was more job insecurity but greater benefits for the Romneys and Fielers of the world. That workers did so much better prior to Volcker's disinflation and Fieler's sharp message makes it clear where we need to go.

      Romney who as much as one man can, represents these last 30 years is being soundly rejected. America is speaking. The GOP's usual message of more pain for less gain has lost its seductive appeal.