Monday, September 3, 2012

Quick Hits - September 2, 2012

Ronald Reagan, 4 days prior to the 1980 election, perfectly framed the major issue of that election campaign when he took to TV and asked the American voter a very simple question, 'Are you better off than you were 4 years ago?'

At the time, inflation had soared to 13.5%, unemployment was also high at or above 7.5%, interest rates were soaring, and the country's GDP growth in 1979 and 1980 was a paltry 1.5%.  The nation was hurting from the 1979 energy crisis, the foreign policy disaster of the Iranian hostage crisis and failed rescue attempt, and a President who said the country was in a malaise while offering little in specific solutions to change the path.

Ronald Reagan advocated 'supply side economic' policies as the way to turn the economic conditions of the US around - and did.

Today, the meme across the Sunday morning talk programs was to ask the surrogates of President Barack Obama the same question - as for the majority of Americans, the two biggest issues are the economy and jobs.  Like in 1980, we are looking at some dismal economic numbers.

On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace asked Obama Senior Campaign adviser David Axelrod this very simple question - Are voters better off now than four years ago?

Wallace highlighted for Axelrod's benefit four basic statistics to model then (January 2009) and now (today)...
Here are the stats Wallace uses:

• Unemployment: 7.8% then, 8.3% now

• Median income: $54,983 then, $50,964 now

• Gas prices: $1.85 per gallon then, $3.78 now

• National debt: $10.6 trillion then, $15.9 trillion now

Here's Axelrod's 'answer'...

David Axelrod basically turned and ran away from the question, move the goalposts, change the subject, and spin like a top - but he couldn't answer the question in the affirmative, that the American people are better off today than they were when Barack Obama entered office to bring forth 'Hope and Change'.

As Ed Morrissey notes in his analysis in the above link...
Expect Mitt Romney to memorize these statistics, and perhaps toss in the civilian participation rate, which was at 65.7% in January 2009 and in June 2009 at the start of the “recovery,” but fell to a 30-year low of 63.6% in April and is at 63.7% now. That’s actually the best measure of the Reagan Metric. If this question doesn’t come from the moderators at the debates, you can bet your bottom dollar that Romney will ask it himself — and that Obama’s (non-)answer will be just as effective, and just as revealing, as Axelrod’s today.
Ed's point about the job participation rate is one that I've made quite often.  It's important and often overlooked - because the 'job creation' record of the President is one that has failed to keep pace with population growth.  If the job participation rate today was at the same level as it was in January 2009, the 'official' unemployment rate would be 11%.

Axelrod's performance didn't improve much as he tried to go on the attack against the GOP and Mitt Romney.

Axelrod also termed the GOP convention in Tampa a 'terrible failure' and tried to advance the spin that Mitt Romney didn't get any bounce from the GOP convention - which is based on the Democrat skewed polls from Reuters / Ipsos.

Wallace, perhaps feeling a little pity for Axelrod missed several obvious follow-up questions that undoubtedly would have had Axelrod in even more trouble.  One was a follow-up to Axelrod's answers on the President's record - Why was Reagan's recovery so much more successful when he inherited in 1980 an economy as bad, if not worse, than Barack Obama inherited in 2008?

The other was to highlight the 6 point bounce that Rasmussen's Daily Tracking poll, a far more accurate depiction of the electorate, show Mitt Romney got as he moved from trailing Obama by 2 points immediately prior to the convention to a 4 point lead on Friday.

George Stephanopoulos, hosting ABC News This Week, asked another senior Obama Campaign adviser, David Plouffe, the same question - Are voters better off today than four years ago? Like Axelrod, Plouffe was unprepared for the question and dodged it - each of the three times he was asked it...

On CBS Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer asked his guest, Maryland's progressive Governor Martin O'Malley the same question - and O'Malley took a different approach towards answering the question...

“No”, said O’Malley, “but that’s not the question of this election.”
... before continuing on to blame George W. Bush's administration for the economic problems that exist today.

I would suspect that the Obama campaign is far more concerned about O'Malley's answer than the inability of Axelrod or Plouffe to adequately dance away from the question.  Here O'Mally admitted, 'No', the American people are not better off today than they were four years ago.  Also troublesome, is that according to almost every poll, the top two issues for the American voter is the economy and jobs.  Furthermore, fewer and fewer people are buying the 'Blame Bush' meme - particularly after Barack Obama has had 44 months in office to enact his agenda.

One of the standard memes from the Obama campaign is that supply side economic policies and theories do not work.  The campaign pushes back on the Romney economic plan of promoting tax code reform, lower tax rates, and a broader tax base as 'tax cuts for the wealthy'.  They, and their Keynesian allies and supporters, argue vehemently that tax breaks and tax cuts do not stimulate the economy.  Well most of them - as the Huffington Post featured an article that claims a Lyndon Johnson 'critical tax cut' ushered in an 'era of high growth'....
Rather than negotiate with Congress, Johnson turned the goodwill of the nation into a force with which to bludgeon the GOP and expand what was politically possible. He took his case to the American people, reminding them that the GOP was the “Party of Lincoln,” and flooded Washington with religious leaders who lobbied Congress.

The result was a tax cut that is largely credited with ushering in an era of high growth.
What no reference to the groundbreaking tax cuts initiated by John F. Kennedy?  Didn't those tax cuts kick off economic growth?  What about the Reagan tax cuts which kicked off unprecedented economic growth?  Or the tax cut program of George W. Bush from 2001 and 2003 that offset the double hit of a recession and the economic effects of the 9/11 terror attack and led to record setting revenues for the federal government?  We remain at these same tax rates today - with Congress and President Obama extending them twice.

If low tax rates are so bad for the economy, why didn't Barack Obama, when he had a filibuster proof majority in the Senate through Feb. 2010 [and only 1 vote short of that mark through Jan. 2011] and a 50+ seat majority in the House, raise taxes as Bill Clinton did in 2003?  After all the message we're going to hear repeatedly during next week's Democrat convention is that Bill Clinton's tax increase sparked the economic growth of the mid/late 1990's. [Which is far from the truth.]

I am wondering if there are two more arrogant nimrods in 'new media' than Politico's Jim VandeHei and John F. Harris.  They feature an 'analysis' they conducted that states a couple of hundred, largely unknown colleagues in the media, will be able to define the perceptions Americans have of Mitt Romney, in particular his excellent RNC speech, and discredit it to the point that these media minions will be able to influence the election results... highlights the key meme of their analysis...
Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech Thursday night was one of the two most important moments of the general election — the other is the first debate — for the simple reason that it gave him a chance to speak directly to millions of people, avoiding the “media filter” through which politicians ordinarily speak to voters.

But that doesn’t mean the media filter — that contingent of perhaps a couple hundred journalists, operatives and commentators — doesn’t matter. History shows that the consensus view of this community of insiders — no matter how fair or unfair the judgments — will powerfully shape the way in which Romney’s words echo in the days and weeks after the speech.

What’s more, it is virtually inevitable that there will be a consensus view.
Even if reactions and analysis are mixed immediately after the speech, a conventional wisdom about big political performances almost always gels within 24 hours.
This is right out of the Lenin / Stalin / Goebbels school of political propaganda...

But we should feel better, because former Bill Clinton White House aide and senior campaign adviser, George Stephanopoulos says that there is no liberal bias in the media...

Demonstrating a complete lack of bias, as well as self-control, is MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Parry who begins to rant / foam at the mouth on the air over business owners calling themselves 'risk takers' in a discussion on business.... [Video at the link - it's an auto start video, and I am trying to avoid embedding those.]

Just unbelievable...

The increasingly left leaning website Politico is surprising many as they are now moving Connecticut into the battleground state category - a major shift in what was thought to be a safely blue / Obama New England state.  Connecticut is one of the bluest states in the Union, along with California, Illinois, New York, and Vermont - but recent polls are showing gains for Mitt Romney at the Presidential level and surprising leads for GOP Senatorial candidate Linda McMahon.

If this is a leading indicator trend, it cannot bode well for the Obama campaign - particularly in the other battleground states.  The fact that it is a left leaning entity making the shift means that this will have to be looked at - and I will cover it more in my post convention look at the state of the race.

From the blogger 'JammieWearingFool', comes a story that is yet another wake up call on the depth of voter fraud or the potential of voter fraud that hangs over our elections...
A Raleigh-based group devoted to reducing the potential for voter fraud presented the N.C. Board of Elections on Friday with a list of nearly 30,000 names of dead people statewide who are still registered to vote.

The Voter Integrity Project compiled the list after obtaining death records from the state Department of Public Health from 2002 to March 31 and comparing them to the voter rolls.

“Mainly, what we’re concerned about is the potential [for fraud],” said project director Jay DeLancy. “Since there is no voter ID law in North Carolina, anybody can walk in and claim to be anyone else.”
As we look at our own domestic economic challenges, particularly as we are on the cusp of crossing the $16 trillion level of our national debt, Europe continues to face their own major economic crisis.  Greece is moving closer and closer to departing the Eurozone as it's economy and austerity measures still fail to measure to the levels needed for continued bail out payments.  They're asking for more time - and time is something that the Germans and other Eurozone countries are loath to continue to fund.

But starting to overshadow Greece is Spain.  Spain is rapidly on the path to their own collapse and exit from the Eurozone.  The latest evidence - the run on Spanish banks that is taking place.
The central bank of Spain just released the net capital outflow numbers and they are disastrous. During the month of June alone $70.90 billion left the Spanish banks and in July it was worse at $92.88 billion which is 4.7% of total bank deposits in Spain. For the first seven months of the year the outflow adds up to $368.80 billion or 17.7% of the total bank deposits of Spain and the trajectory of the outflow is increasing dramatically. Reality is reality and Spain is experiencing a full-fledged run on its banks whether anyone in Europe wants to admit it or not. We are now at the virtual epicenter of the European Crisis where decisions will have to be made; avoidance is no longer possible. We have reached the end of the road where there is no more path left for can kicking.
Italy is not far behind Spain - and may be the next major domino to topple....but eyes can also turn to France - which earlier this year voted in a Socialist President and a Socialist majority in their national assembly.  Francois Hollande's solution to the Eurocrisis, and France's economic challenges, is to embrace a strong move to the left - more taxes, more spending, more debt, and far greater government in size and control.  An example of this is evident as the French government suddenly nationalized the country's second largest mortgage lender...
First on the agenda: moments ago the French government suddenly announced the nationalization of troubled mortgage lender Credit Immobilier de France, which is also the country's second lagrest mortgage specialist after an attempt to find a buyer for the company failed. "To allow the CIF group to respect its overall commitments, the state decided to respond favourably to its request to grant it a guarantee," Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said according to Reuters. What he really meant was that in order to avoid a bank run following the realization that the housing crisis has finally come home, his boss, socialist Hollande, has decided to renege on his core campaign promise, and bail out an "evil, evil" bank.
Too big to fail, eh?

From UK's 'The Telegraph' comes an excellent article that is highlighting that in Europe, in Britain, and in the United States, the 'Myth of a Democratic Socialist Society Funded By Capitalism is Finished....'
What is being challenged is nothing less than the most basic premise of the politics of the centre ground: that you can have free market economics and a democratic socialist welfare system at the same time. The magic formula in which the wealth produced by the market economy is redistributed by the state – from those who produce it to those whom the government believes deserve it – has gone bust.

What is at issue now is much more politically contentious: universal entitlements such as comprehensive Medicare and social security are known to be unaffordable in their present form. Ryan, the radical economic thinker, suggests a solution for Medicare in the form of a voucher system. Patients could choose from competing health providers, with a ceiling on the cost of procedures and treatments, instead of simply being given blanket no-choice care. Thus, the government would get better value for money, and individuals would have more say in their own treatment.
It is imperative that we learn from history - and from the evidence of all that is around us.  Doubling down on failure only will lead to failure.  And we are rapidly running out of road to keep kicking that can down.

A reminder - tomorrow, September 3rd is 'National Empty Chair Day'....

Today in History

31 BC - The Battle of Actium - where Roman leader Octavian wins a decisive victory over Marc Antony and Cleopatra - which leads to the suicides of both Antony and the Egyptian Queen the following year.  In 27 BC, Octavian would become Caesar Augustus, Emperor of Rome...the first and most successful of the Roman emperors.

1666 - In the early morning, a fire breaks out at the house of King Charles II's baker on Pudding Lane, near London Bridge in London, England.  The fire would soon spread through the medieval core of the city of London, narrow streets, oak and tar homes, overcrowded conditions, and burn until September 6th.  The Great Fire of London would destroy 80% of the city. Included in the destruction would be the original St. Paul's Cathedral and 90 other churches as well as scores of historic landmarks and public buildings.  100,000 people would be left homeless - but only 16 died.  The city and St. Paul's Cathedral would be rebuilt.  In the 1670's, the Memorial would be built - a 202 foot tall column near the starting point of the blaze.

1944 - The future 41st President of the United States, George H.W. Bush, piloting an Avenger torpedo-bomber from the USS San Jacinto, is shot down by Japanese anti-aircraft fire over the island of Chi Chi Jima.  Three crew members of the Avenger we killed, but Bush was able to bail out of the aircraft over the Pacific - where he floated on a raft for 4 hours before being rescued by a US submarine.  He would return to combat operations and would receive the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroism on this mission.

1945 - Aboard the USS Missouri, representatives from the Empire of Japan formally surrendered to the Allies - bring the Second World War to an end.

1969 - Chemical Bank opens the first ATM - Automatic Teller Machine - to customers in Rockville Center, New York.  Originally designed to only dispense cash, by 1971, software was developed to permit customers to handle multiple functions / services.

1969 - The leader of North Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, died.

1998 - 229 passengers and crew on board a Swissair jetliner were killed when the aircraft crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia.  The pilot had reported smoke in the cockpit a few minutes before the aircraft crashed.

1998 - 50 years after the United Nations adopted an international law banning genocide, the first conviction takes place as a UN court finds Jean-Paul Akayesu, the former mayor of a small town in Rwanda, guilty of 9 counts of genocide.


  1. You lost it comparing Obama to Reagan.

    Since you asked - Reagan didn't have to contend with:
    a) a congress set to block every recovery measure proposed by the president, specifically posturing for the next election by then blaming the failures on the president.
    b) a banking system that suffered crashes/scandals between '06-'09, whose radical reactionary changes in lending practices are so extreme that the Fed adjustment of the interest rate is now rendered ineffective for stimulating the economy.

    In that light, the chart you show would indicate tremendous success for Obama, relatively speaking.

    Personally, I think our economy and recovery are more important than posturing, and we need the Fed interest rate adjustments to work again as our economic system is designed to - lowering them SHOULD stimulate the economy. "Fix it" is a conservative concept.
    This election, Republicans are trying to sell us a whole new economic system instead of fixing what's broke - because they :
    1) oppose "regulation" blindly
    2) won't touch Wall Street banks, much less interfere with their policies.

    That's not conservative, they've snuffed recovery that could have been higher - as your chart shows - and certainly, despite being a registered Republican, I won't be voting for them this time around, not after the Bush years (which I would not call "conservative" either), not after the irresponsible congressional actions of Republicans during the Obama years.
    They don't deserve to win the presidency, after demonstrating 12 years now of pure disrespect with regard to the American public.

  2. Interesting. Let me make a couple of general observations before addressing a few specific observations.

    General #1 - Interesting burying a comment for a Sept 2nd post on Nov 3rd. Flag #1.

    General #2 - My experience tells me that when one defines themselves as you do as a 'registered Republican' - they are far more often than not, a registered Republican - but a moby. Flag #2.

    Now to the specifics...

    To the point (a) re Congress, what is often missed is the immense difference in approaches towards the Congress they needed to deal with between Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama.

    Unlike Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama's definition of a compromise is when the other side surrender's their positions and fully accept his. Do we not recall the summits at the WH with Congressional Leadership over both the Stimulus package and Healthcare reform where the President in one scolded the GOP leadership that 'I Won' and that the election was over? That's hardly a position to encourage compromise.

    How about the negotiations between the WH and Speaker Boehner over the debt ceiling increase in the fall of 2011 - where Obama had gotten an agreement from Boehner that would result in the Speaker supporting tax increases in return for specific tax cuts - but then Obama reneged on the deal demanding an additional nearly $1 Trillion in new taxes?

    Arrogance, hubris, and dishonesty does little to promote cooperation. Reagan had none of that and approached Tip O'Neil in a manner to reach a real compromise - give a little to get a little.

    As to your point (b) - you conveniently forget the effects launched during the Clinton Administration to 'fix' mortgage lending and home ownbership which combined with massive corruption and malfeaseance in Fannie as well as major Wall Street banks like Goldman (historically a strong Democrat supporting organization) which created a bubble that burst during the 2008 recession. Suggest you read the book on the subject by the NYT's Gretchen Morganstern for the details. I've linked to it often.

    As for the Fed - what's ignored is the level of interest rates since late 2008- and the effect. Or the massively negative effect of 2 previous QE (money printing) efforts which is now a 3rd money printing effort that is open ended - and have little to show except a dramatically weakened dollar.

    History has given us a real comparison point - the recovery of 1982-1986 from the double hit of the 79-80 and 81 recessions via conservative economic policies and the Obama 'recovery' from the 2008-9 recession which is based on progressive Keynesian economic policies. Keynesian economic policies do not work and have never 'worked' - only unleashing the private sector and limiting government interference in markets (aka ensuring 'fairness') combined with keeping capital in the private sector stimulates vibrant economic recoveries.

    As for the disdain for the Wall Street Banks - look closely at the fiscal support those banks gave Obama in 2008. On top of that, where did Geithner come from? Goldman. How about Jon Corzine, another major economic advisor for Obama? Goldman. Architect of TARP / Too Big to Fail - Geithner.

    GOP favoring Wall Street banks? Seems to me only Republicans were raising questions about why Jon Corzine hasn't been prosecuted for his malfeasance in the failure of MF Global and missappropriation of $1.6 billion of client funds.