Saturday, September 8, 2012

Quick HIts - September 8, 2012

The Drudgereport 'headline' has the news - Obama 49% Romney 45% based on the Gallup daily tracking poll.  The message - the Romney-Ryan bounce is gone, and courtesy mainly of the speeches by Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton, Barack Obama has bounced to a 4 point lead.  On top of this, on job approval, Barack Obama has returned to a point unseen since the death of Osama Bin Laden - 52% approving and only 42% disapproving of his job as President.

Is this the turning point - and where Barack Obama starts to pull away from Romney-Ryan?  Rasmussen's daily tracking, a more accurate reflection than Gallup, also has Barack Obama holding a 2 point lead as of Friday.

Here's why it's not time to panic.  Neither of these polls have any real weighting from the effects of Barack Obama's subpar acceptance speech or, and more importantly, the August jobs report which only reflected 96,000 new jobs being added and nearly 400,000 being dropped from the labor participation pool.  The real impact of this dismal jobs report, yet another in a series of subpar job reports, is still to be felt within the electorate and polls.

Yesterday's QH covered a lot about the jobs report and why this is bad news for the country and so many of our fellow citizens.  This report reinforces that this economy continues to weaken - and reinforces the viewpoint that any strength we are seeing in the economy is despite the policies and agenda of the Obama Administration.  These policies are far more a damper on the national economy than a fuel source.

Our steps into a neo-European entitlement state are getting stronger.  In August, 173,000 more Americans joined the roles on federal food stamps - nearly double the new jobs created.  With nearly 50% of all individual income tax payers not paying any federal income taxes, and indeed, receiving refunds from the Internal Revenue Service (wealth redistribution), and other expansions of the entitlement state, how willing are these members of the electorate going to be to vote for those who oppose the expansion of the entitlement state.

We see in Greece voters turning to the political parties of the left because those parties oppose any reductions in the entitlement state, any weakening of the power, control, and reach of the central government, and austerity measures that are commonplace when we look at our own personal revenues and liabilities.  This is also happening in France - where the decision has been made to have the wealthy pay their 'fair share' - which is defined at 75% of their income - while the government expands benefits and controls (restoring the 35 hour work week, limiting the freedom of companies to reduce staff to remain profitable or competitive, etc).

Are we going to see the same here - with a plurality of American voters deciding to support the progressive agenda of Barack Obama and the Democrat Party as opposed to the Romney-Ryan / GOP approach which  argues for a return to traditional American values, smaller government, and fewer expensive entitlements that we cannot afford?

One of the questions being asked is if the US is too far down that path of entitlements and progressivism to be able to return to a more fiscally responsible approach with far less dependency on government.

Businesses today are making profits - but unlike decades past, they are loath to reinvest those profits domestically into growth because of the uncertainty of the future - particularly around their own tax obligations.  Unlike 40 years ago, it is far more commonplace for companies, if they do bring on new workers, to bring on 'contractors' - workers who do not require the investment of the company for expensive benefit plans.  These contractors can be dismissed far easier than employees, so companies have more flexibility and abilities to control their costs in a challenging economic environment.

Innovation and research are taking a back seat in many companies because of the risk and cost elements around these areas.  Not only from the development costs, but the leaders of these companies have to look at potential future litigation risks - and as a result, many have become very risk adverse in this environment.  In technology, patent litigation is being used aggressively to limit and hand-cuff one's competitors.

Increased globalization also creates economic challenges for the US as our companies have to compete on a different basis and scale than they have been used to.  We have the world's highest corporate income tax rate at the federal level - these rates are going up under the Obama Administration - not down.  Centralized economic planning of the manner and method being attempted by the Obama Administration is working no better today than it did in Josef Stalin's 5 Year Economic Pans in the Soviet Union.

But are the voters really seeing and thinking about these issues?  The mainstream media is not reporting on these issues - the majority of them are ideological partners with the progressive agenda, see it as the 'way forward', and openly advocate and support these policies.

When people do look at these issues - read of the 24.4% unemployment rate in Greece, the 10.4% unemployment rate in France, they do not relate these effects to the cause - the progressive / socialistic ideology that has been in place in Europe since the end of the 2nd World War.  Defenders of progressivism, on the rare occasions they admit of problems in their agenda, blame the implementation and not the agenda for those problems.

One of the common excuses of the Obama Administration over their inability to really generate a vibrant and real economic recovery is that it takes time to turn a supertanker; that it took 'decades' to get into this fiscal crisis so there are no quick fixes available to turn the economy around.  If that is case, how does one explain what Ronald Reagan did in 1981-84?

7.5% unemployment, 12% inflation, an energy crisis, 19% prime interest rate, 21-23% mortgage rates, the lowest levels of labor participation since the Great Depression - these are only a few of the 'milestones' that existed when Ronald Reagan became President in January 1981.  Yet, by September 1984, the economy was adding 1.1 million jobs in a single month.  Middle class income was increasing - not decreasing the 8% or so it has done since Barack Obama took office.

If Reagan was able to turn the economy around from the January 1981 position within his first term in office, why hasn't Barack Obama been able to do the same - with what one can argue was a better starting position in the economy than we had in 1979-1980?  In fact, President Obama also had one major advantage to assist him that Reagan could never dream of having - a super-majority in Congress to help facilitate the implementation of the President's agenda and policies.  From January 2009 to December 2010, Obama had a huge majority in the House.  From January 2009 until February 2010, he had a filibuster proof majority in  the Senate, and for the balance of 2010, was just 1 vote shy of that filibuster proof majority.  Sway just 1 of 4 or 5 'moderate' Republicans, and filibusters could have been broken.

We were promised that if we 'invested' [Obamaspeak for federal government spending] $850 billion in a stimulus package, the unemployment rate, then at 7.8-7.9%, would not surpass 8%.  By the summer of 2012, election season, the country would have a 5.4% unemployment rate and the economy would be growing at least at 4% on an annual basis.

We're not there.  None of those promises were delivered on.  We're not even close to any of these promises.  But we're told that this isn't the fault of either the Administration or the Democrats in Congress, in particular the Democrat controlled Senate which hasn't passed a budget in 3 1/2 years.  Bill Clinton said not one President could have possibly fixed the economic challenges we faced in a single term - but what about Reagan's first term?  How does one explain and reconcile the results of those years - or the effects of the policies of Reagan towards achieving those results?

Middle America is full of people who aren't polled by the polling organizations.  Middle America is full of people who spend their time focusing on their families, their lives, and their local communities as opposed to spending their time demonstrating and agitating.  This is still the silent majority.  They are the ones struggling the most in today's economy - and the majority of them do not seek out government entitlements unless they have absolutely no other choice.

Middle America is going to decide this election.

They are smarter and more engaged than the pundits believe they are...they see what they have to do at their family levels - and are wondering why the rules are so different when it comes to government.  Many can remember 1979-1984 - and are asking what was different then from today....and then they will go cast their votes to define the direction for the next four years.

UPDATE - My post-convention analysis, 'Wargaming the 2012 Presidential Election (Part 3)' will be published on September 16th.  My final look, Part 4, will be published on October 28th - after the majority of the debates have been completed.

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