Friday, August 31, 2012

Romney Speaks

A few quick thoughts on Romney's convention speech.

This was in many respects a data-driven speech.  Some may wish that Romney made a more ideological speech, but this emphasis on practical problem-solving may be a more effective response to the problems we face as a nation.  Invoking ideological platitudes is not necessarily going to persuade the middle---or solve our troubles.

If this speech was not an act of nostalgia, it was an act of reminding.  Romney reminded his listeners of a time of American prosperity, ambition, and opportunity.  By pointing to the past successes of the United States (from the moon-landing to the opportunity provided to his father), Romney was able to summon up some warm feelings about America's past in order to inspire some hope for the present and future.

Romney's "humanization" is a theme the media has picked up and run with.  I think the "humanization" imperative might have been a little overemphasized in media coverage, but this speech did show Romney more emotionally open than in the past.  Romney's devotion to his parents, his wife, and his children radiated off the podium.

Two passages that stood out:
And that’s how it is in America. We look to our communities, our faiths, our families for our joy, our support, in good times and bad. It is both how we live our lives and why we live our lives. The strength and power and goodness of America has always been based on the strength and power and goodness of our communities, our families, our faiths.
That is the bedrock of what makes America, America. In our best days, we can feel the vibrancy of America’s communities, large and small.
It’s when we see that new business opening up downtown. It’s when we go to work in the morning and see everybody else on our block doing the same.
It’s when our son or daughter calls from college to talk about which job offer they should take….and you try not to choke up when you hear that the one they like is not far from home.
It’s that good feeling when you have more time to volunteer to coach your kid’s soccer team, or help out on school trips.
 One of the implicit themes of this speech is the combination of opportunity and empathy.  As this passage suggests, rising opportunity for every American also allows for a strengthening of community.  Expanding economic options allow not simply for some selfish race to accumulate as much wealth as possible but instead provide a chance for individuals to involve themselves in their communities and in charitable enterprises.  To wish for more opportunities for other Americans is to wish to help them; the opportunity to make the most of oneself is one of the greatest aids that can be found.

The other passage:
President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. MY to help you and your family.
 A number of commentators picked up on this line (and not solely for the topic of "climate change").  It suggests an interesting localism, where Romney pledges to focus on the local problems of local Americans. The past decade of disappointment and decay has led to a sense of dislocation for many Americans.  This emphasis on the local may be a way of trying to assuage this alienation.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

GDP Growth for Second Quarter: 1.7%

The Bureau of Economic Analysis has released new numbers for GDP growth in the second quarter of 2012.  The economy increased at an annual rate of 1.7% in the second quarter, which is up from initial estimates of 1.5%.  That's the good news.  The bad news is that GDP growth has slipped from a 2% rate in the first quarter.  In 2011, the second quarter saw a 2.4% growth rate.

According to the BEA, the last time the economy saw two back-to-back quarters with annualized growth rates of 2% or less was in 2009.  Last year, real GDP growth was estimated at 1.8%.  It's very possible that this year could fall below that number.  We could easily be witnessing the economy entering another slowdown.

And this slowdown would be from a mediocre peak.  Annual GDP growth averaged 3.5% between 1947 and 2000.  It last reached 3.5% in 2004.  The lowest annual GDP growth rate under Clinton was 2.5% (in 1995); not one year of the Obama administration has equaled or exceeded that rate.

As the Republicans convene in Tampa, the lingering economic stagnation of the past decade provides a backdrop for their promises of restoration and renewal.

(On the plus side, exports had a stronger-than-expected quarter, growing at a much faster rate than imports.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Another Poll Shows McMahon Leading in CT

Along with last week's Rasmussen poll showing a Republican lead in Connecticut, a Quinnipiace poll released today shows McMahon leading her Democratic opponent 49-46.  A strong lead with independents helps McMahon:
In today's survey, McMahon's 54 - 42 percent lead among men swamps Murphy's small 50 - 46 percent lead among women. McMahon leads 88 - 10 percent among Republicans and 55 - 40 percent among independent voters, while Murphy takes Democrats 82 - 16 percent. 
Meanwhile, this same poll shows Obama up only 7 points over Romney (52-45).  In 2008, Obama beat McCain by 23 points.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Big Cash for Kennedy

Patrick Howley writes on the fund-raising disparities in MA-04:
Republican Sean Bielat faces off against Democrat Joseph P. Kennedy III in Massachusetts’ 4th Congressional District in November. Kennedy has received an extraordinary amount of out-of-state fundraising and favorable coverage from liberal mainstream media outlets more focused on his last name than his district.
Kennedy, 31, held a fundraiser last Thursday at his family’s Hyannis Port compound. The event was co-hosted by his grandmother Ethel and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Massachusetts Democratic congressmen Barney Frank, Bill Keating, Ed Markey, Richard Neal, John Tierney, and Niki Tsongas were in attendance. A ticket for four to the event, with access to a photo line, cost $35,800.
The Hyannis Port fundraiser was no outlier.
“His fundraising is just ridiculous, both in quantity and by virtue of the fact that he’s started a leadership PAC. How many first-time candidates start leadership PACs because they’re raising so much money?” Bielat, a former Marine Corps officer and Barney Frank’s Republican challenger in the district in 2010, told the Free Beacon.
“If you look at his FEC report, you have to go 5 or 6 pages before you find a donation below $1,000,” said Massachusetts political consultant Brad Marston. “It’s all these family connections that have been set up over six decades.”
 According to Open Secrets, Kennedy has received just $455 in small donations (donations under $200), which Open Secrets rounds to 0% of his $3-million fundraising haul.  Bielat, on the other hand, has raised $214,000 in small contributions (out of about half a million in contributions).  So Bielat has raised about 4700% the amount of small donations that Kennedy has.

Close in Michigan

Two interesting polls from Mitchell Research in Michigan: Romney tied with Obama at 47% each, and GOP Senate nominee Pete Hoekstra leading Democratic incumbent Senator Debbie Stabenow 45-44.  Gaining ground in the Rust Belt would be an important step for Republicans forging a national coalition in November.

Scuffle in Massachusetts

An Elizabeth Warren campaign worker goes after the video camera of a Republican tracker.  Bill Jacobson reminds us that this is not the first time a worker for one of Scott Brown's Democratic rivals has gotten physical with critics.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Independence and Union

Matthew Continetti has a very interesting essay up in The Weekly Standard arguing for a Republican campaign banner that unites the classic American terms of independence and union.

Continetti offers a more capacious view of "independence":
The American Revolution was fought not only to achieve independence from the British Empire, but also to realize independence for self-governing citizens. But America and Americans have become increasingly dependent in recent years. We are dependent on the government for jobs, for benefits, for pensions, and for health care. We are dependent on overseas energy and on cheap goods from China. We are dependent on consumer debt issued by a consolidated financial system in which the largest, Too Big to Fail institutions and their agents rig the game in their favor (see Rubin, Robert). Our economy seems dependent on an erratic and unaccountable Federal Reserve.
Such dependencies threaten to spiral out of control. Budget deficits and public debt are financed by overseas powers whose interests are not our own. Health expenditures in particular threaten to crowd out other parts of the budget, such as the core government function of national defense, as well as the education, transportation, and research dollars the incumbent talks so much about. Increasing reliance on means-tested government transfers enervates the character of the people and hampers economic growth. Trade deficits send money to potential adversaries, who return the money in the form of asset bubbles. The dangers of big banks are obvious: Excessive leverage and madcap derivative trading not only increase systemic risk, but the political pull of mega-firms also promotes cronyism and inside dealing.

Some of Continetti's solutions are also interesting:
The health care system would be improved and costs lowered through competition, the freedom to purchase insurance across state lines, a tough approach to malpractice litigation, and an end to the tax penalty for individuals who do not obtain insurance through their employer. The emphasis of social policy would be on getting families off government assistance, not ensnaring more of them in a safety net that raises effective marginal tax rates.
Full exploitation of America’s domestic carbon energy resources​—​oil, coal, and natural gas​—​would lessen our dependence on foreign oil and reduce the trade deficit. The sort of retaliatory tariffs against unfair Chinese trade practices and currency manipulation for which Irwin M. -Stelzer has argued in these pages would have a similar effect. A center-right consensus has emerged to deal with Wall Street: Link bank size to increased capital requirements so that financial institutions cannot grow fat on leveraged dollars. Go ahead and audit the Fed, but also increase the pressure on it to commit to a rules-based monetary policy rather than the sort of haphazard discretionary approach it has adopted since the financial crisis began.
A point implicit in Continetti's argument is that independence and union are allies in the American system.  Our union is strengthened by being populated by prudent, independent individuals.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Middle Class: Fuel of Economic Growth

Henry Blodget connects the decline of the middle class to sputtering economic growth over the past decade:
Over the past 30 years, a larger and larger portion of America's income growth has gone to those in the top 10% of incomes, and especially those in the top 1%. This is a major change from the prior 60 years, in which the top 10% and the bottom 90% shared in the income gains.
A stark and startling example of this trend is the fact that, adjusted for inflation, "average hourly earnings" in this country have not increased in 50 years....

The reason the decline of the middle class is important is not just about fairness. It's about the health of the economy as a whole.
Collectively, the middle class represents enormous buying and spending power, and in the past 60 years this spending power has helped the U.S. economy become the envy of the world.
But now, however, the middle class is increasingly strapped. And the resulting impact on spending is constraining the growth of companies that sell products and services to American consumers.
The causes of this middle-class decline are many, from globalization (jobs being shipped overseas), to the decline of private-sector unions, to the wholesale embrace of a "shareholder value" religion that values profit over everything else that companies produce. But the result of the trend can be seen vividly in two charts.
First, wages are now at an all-time low as a percent of the economy.
Second, corporate profits are now at an all-time high.
To truly "fix" the U.S. economy, corporations are going to have to be persuaded to invest more of their excess profits in their employees, both by hiring new employees and paying existing employees more. "Wages" to employees become spending money for those employees, and the spending produces revenue for other companies. If corporations can collectively be persuaded to reinvest more of their profits in their people, in other words, they will help restore their own revenue growth.

Romney: Innovation and Trade Reform Will be Key

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Mitt Romney reflects on what his experiences at Bain taught him.  Here's a passage particularly relating to manufacturing:
In the 1990s, when the "old-technology" steel industry in the U.S. was failing, Bain Capital helped build a new steel company, Steel Dynamics, which has grown into one of the largest steel producers in America today, holding its own against Chinese producers. The key to its success? State-of-the-art new technology.
Here are two lessons from the Steel Dynamics story: First, innovation is essential to the competitiveness of U.S. manufacturing. We are the most innovative, entrepreneurial nation in the world. To maintain that lead, we must give people the skills to succeed. My plan for a stronger middle class includes policies to give every family access to great schools and quality teachers, to improve access to higher education, and to attract and retain the best talent from around the world.
The second lesson is that we must have a level playing field in international trade. As president, I will challenge unfair trade practices that are harming American workers.
Romney's discussion of the second lesson is fairly short, but, throughout much of the primary, he discussed the importance of restoring US manufacturing in the face of competition that was anything other than free and fair trade.  Perhaps he will continue to develop this theme in the months ahead.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Romney Edges Toward Banking Reform

James Pethokoukis, Erick Erickson, and others have pondered the electoral and policy benefits of Mitt Romney's campaign taking up banking reform.  Well, now it seems as though Romney is ready to address this issue, if this interview with Time is any evidence (emphasis added):
STENGEL: Another sort of related business question, if you look at the regulatory environment for the banks now and there are basically five big banks that in terms of assets disproportionately outweigh everybody else, is there a situation of moral hazard now related to those banks? And what would you do to reform the financial sector? Would you bring something back like Glass-Steagall? How do you see it, Governor?
ROMNEY: I think Dodd-Frank has contributed to a concentration of banking assets into the hands of a small number of banks. By designating certain banks as being too big to fail, strategically important banks, it makes it more difficult for the banks not so designated to attract customers and to expand their business. What you’ve seen as a result is a concentration in the hands of a handful of banks that now has greater systemic threat that what even existed before.
The right course was not to say that this handful of banks will be protected by the government, implying therefore that all the rest of the banks are on their own, because smart depositors will all move towards the banks that are protected by government. It had the opposite effect of what was advertised. What was advertised was that we would keep the too big to fail banks from getting bigger, but the result of the legislation is just the opposite.
What we need to do is to make it easier for the community and local banks and regional banks to succeed and thrive because they, after all, are the places where small and medium-size businesses get their funding. So the whole idea of designating a handful of banks as the government-protected too big to fail banks is the wrong course.
Now, we do need to have regulation in the banking industry. Extensive regulation is appropriate in an industry that has such an impact on the overall economy. We have to look at what the causes were of the last crisis and take action to prevent those causes from reappearing. What kinds of things come to mind include capital requirements, levels of leverage which are appropriate and inappropriate, banks maintaining risk in assets which they gather. Specifically, I’m referring to the idea if a bank originates a loan or a mortgage that it should be on the hook for some portion of the loss if that loan or mortgage fails. These kinds of provisions, I think, would be directly applicable to the kind of crisis that we experienced before.
Interestingly in these comments, Romney emphasizes the critique put forward by the Dallas Fed, and echoed by many on the right and center (and some on the left), that Dodd-Frank made Too-Big-to-Fail worse---not better.

Taking on banking reform could be helpful for Romney for at least two reasons: it could sketch out regulatory foundations to help prevent a financial collapse in the future, and it would also shift the territory of the campaign.  By embracing banking reform, Romney could disrupt the leftist narrative that he and other Republicans are merely tools of financier-plutocrats.  Americans still are hurting from the financial crisis, and and many still have a lingering fear that the causes of this collapse have not been fully addressed.  Financial reform could give Romney a way of assuaging to the fears of many Americans, particularly those in the economic middle and those suspicious of both parties.

There's a conservative case to be made for financial reform, and Romney may be heading in the direction of making it.

Republican Revival in New England?

Two polls that might inspire optimism in New England Republicans:
  • Massachusetts Senate: Scott Brown up 5 on Elizabeth Warren, 49-44.
  • Connecticut Senate: Linda McMahon up 3 on Chris Murphy, 49-46.

Pew on the Middle Class

Pew has a helpful study up about the evolution of the middle class over the past ten years, documenting some of the ways in which it has lost ground.  Perhaps most striking is the following finding: in 1971, middle income households had 61% of the national income, but, by 2010, these households had only 45% of the national income.  Upper income households went from having 29% of the national income in 1971 to 46% of the national income in 2010.  Interestingly, most of this change in income share seems to have taken place between 1980 and 2000.  2000 also serves as the tipping point after which economic growth slowed down for most sectors of Americans.

The connection between declining fortunes of the middle and the economic slowdown is a point that could be further explored by conservatives.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Not Backing Down

Todd Akin seems to be making a play to stay in the Missouri Senate race in a just-released spot begging the people of Missouri for forgiveness:
“Rape is an evil act. I used the wrong words in the wrong way and for that I apologize. As the father of two daughters, I want tough justice for predators. I have a compassionate heart for the victims of sexual assault. I pray for them,” Akin says. “The fact is, rape can lead to pregnancy. The truth is, rape has many victims.”

 PPP has released a poll purporting to show that, while these comments have helped cause Akin's approval rating to crater, he still runs about one point ahead of McCaskill, 44-43 (which is basically the result PPP got when it polled in May).

However, as Jim Geraghty and others have noted, the PPP poll sampling swings heavily Republican.  In May, the D/R/I breakdown was 35/33/33.  For the August poll, it was 30/39/32.  So it went from slightly favoring Democrats to hugely favoring Republicans.  As Ed Morrissey reminds us, even in the Republican "wave" year of 2010, Republicans only had a three-point advantage over Democrats, so a 9-point advantage seems rather interesting, to say the least.  In contrast, SurveyUSA polled this race and used an even split between Republicans and Democrats.

I had been doing some calculations about what the results would be under a more usual partisan distribution, but CAC at Ace of Spades has beaten me to the punch, so I'll just link and quote:
Here are the real numbers:
If turnout in November matches 2008 (it won't):
McCaskill 49.25% Akin 39% (this is a D+6 turnout model)
If turnout in November is even, an incredible feat for the GOP considering heavy turnout in St Louis and Kansas City during an election year:
McCaskill 47% Akin 40%.
If turnout in November matches the best we have ever seen in the state (R+3 during 2010):
McCaskill 45% Akin 41%.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Akin Achin'

Todd Akin's comments about "legitimate rape" have ignited a media furor, particularly among the right.  Ann Coulter has demanded that he withdraw from the Senate race against incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill.  Romney's campaign has also denounced Akin's remarks.  GOP groups are fleeing the state to protest Akin's campaign.

So will Akin drop out?  There are conflicting reports here.  This story is still developing quickly.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Education Left Behind

A new report has come out on employment by educational level.  A lot of interesting data.  Some of the key points:
  • New jobs were created for the holders of college degrees during the technical recession, and these jobs have increased over the "recovery."
  • About the same number of jobs exist for those with some college but without a four-year degree.
  • Nearly 6 million jobs for those with a high school education or less have been lost since 2007; some of those losses occurred during the "recovery."
  • The unemployment rate for new high school graduates is 24%.
  • Earnings of those with a BA were nearly twice those of high school graduates.

See Kay Steiger for an interesting chart from this report.

It looks like in the Obama economy, many have still been left behind---especially those without a college degree.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

No Prosecutions at MF Global

Jon Corzine's collapsed firm, MF Global, looks like it will escape any prosecutions for the actions leading up to its collapse:
A criminal investigation into the collapse of the brokerage firm MF Global and the disappearance of about $1 billion in customer money is now heading into its final stage without charges expected against any top executives.
After 10 months of stitching together evidence on the firm’s demise, criminal investigators are concluding that chaos and porous risk controls at the firm, rather than fraud, allowed the money to disappear, according to people involved in the case.
The hurdles to building a criminal case were always high with MF Global, which filed for bankruptcy in October after a huge bet on European debt unnerved the market. But a lack of charges in the largest Wall Street blowup since 2008 is likely to fuel frustration with the government’s struggle to charge financial executives. Just a few individuals — none of them top Wall Street players — have been prosecuted for the risky acts that led to recent failures and billions of dollars in losses.

There's No Business...

Dan Riehl has a good point here:
I'm not unrealistic. But if attacks are going to come and they are and will continue, the GOP has to have answers. It can't all be show business.
There's a difference between getting ratings and winning an election, and there's a difference between winning an election and actually governing.  Barack Obama had a very successful campaign; his presidency has been another story.  At some point, policy matters.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Real Mediscare Trap

The Paul Ryan pick as Republican vice-presidential nominee may offer numerous opportunities for Mitt Romney's campaign, but it also offers both an electoral and an economic trap: the risk of transforming this election into solely a referendum on various Medicare reforms.  Some in the conservative movement may be hungry for a "choice" election on the future of government-financed medical spending, but this eagerness should not distract from needed economic reforms.  Meanwhile, there is a risk that the election becomes mired in a cycle of Democratic assaults upon the Ryan budget and Republican outrage at these assaults.  Such a dynamic might be good for blogger traffic, but it would likely damage the political prospects of Republicans and the economic prospects of Americans.

Medicare may be on an unsustainable path, and the growth rate of medical expenditures may eventually break the finances of the federal government.  Debates about how to reform the federal financing of medical care are necessary and worth having, yet what is at issue is when we should have these debates and how much we should focus on such debates at the present moment. Barack Obama would very much like to fight over Medicare proposals; he would like to avoid any attention to his record over the past few years.  The president would vastly prefer to distract from the failures of the present through conjuring fears about the future.  There is no reason for Republicans to let him slide on his record.  By allowing Obama to make Medicare reforms the centerpiece of this election, Republicans would be giving him a clean slate.

By sacrificing all other issues for an exclusive focus on Medicare and other entitlement reforms, Republicans would also be making a policy mistake.  However much it may loom in the future, Medicare is not what imperils the economy right now.  Businesses are not hiring not because Medicare might go insolvent a number of years down the road.  If the economic trajectory of the past four years continues indefinitely into the future, almost no version of Medicare (including Paul Ryan's) will be affordable.  If the point is to reform Medicare to make it sustainable (as Ryan allies claim), then we had best look at more pressing issues for the sustainability of Medicare and the future of the American economy as one of dynamic growth.  Moreover, even Ryan's reforms, which many in the Beltway conservative establishment have rallied around, would do nothing to change entitlements for the next ten years at least.  Ten years is a long time, and there need to be conservative alternatives for the medium term as well as the long term.

So Romney and his fellow Republicans should not let the focus slip too much from the theme of economic restoration and renewal.  And I for one am doubtful that reducing the deficit or cutting spending alone will solve our economic problems.  Many other structural risks are posed to the American economy.  For instance, banking reform could be a key policy and political move for Romney.  We still live in an era of too-big-to-fail.  Many on the right have become increasingly aware of how TBTF endangers both economic growth and the freedom of the American economy.  It seems very likely that the president's signature financial reform initiative, Dodd-Frank, has made it worse.  Finance will need to be made a market again (rather than a government-backed syndicate) in order for the economy to take off.

Our immigration system and lack of immigration enforcement still place burdens upon the middle class---both native-born Americans and legal immigrants.  Our trade policies often incentivize the intervention of foreign governments into the American economy, mocking rather than living up to the spirit of free trade and free enterprise.  Our regulatory structures too often encourage deindustrialization and rent-seeking.  Our tax policies are larded through with loopholes for interests connected to those in power.  Debt and stagnating incomes have led to a troubled housing sector.  A lack of a smart energy policy drains our growth.  Disappointment and diminishing resources have been the story for too many Americans.  Inner-city families still struggle with urban blight and decay.  Our health-care system is in need of market reforms.

A host of challenges face our economy and our society---and not all these challenges can be met through the budget.  Entitlement reform, if it is to be advanced, may work best as part of a broader menu of needed reforms.  Denouncing the president's Mediscare tactics may rally the base, but it will not persuade the middle and it will not alone put the economy back on the path to prosperity.  One of the key traits of conservatism is facing immediate crises first.  Well, the breakdown of the economy is the immediate crisis.  Restoring economic vitality will go a long way toward advancing the causes of free markets and free people that Romney and Ryan have publicly defended.

There is a bigger choice ahead than what will happen to Medicare: it is whether the United States will take a dark road of decline, despair, and decay, or whether it will return to what is best within itself and instead take the initially more difficult but ultimately more rewarding path of renewal, national recovery, and civic restoration.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Pick-Up Opportunity in Missouri

Claire McCaskill barely beat Jim Talent in 2006 to become a US Senator for Missouri.  According to a new SurveyUSA poll, she trails her Republican challenger, Todd Akin, by 11 points: 40-51.  This could be a real pick-up opportunity for Republicans in Missouri.

Whose Cuts?

Avik Roy, a policy advisor for Romney, highlights a key difference between Romney's budget and the House-backed Ryan budget: the Ryan budget keeps Obamacare cuts to Medicare (though it would not use those cuts to fund Obamacare), while Romney would repeal the Medicare cuts as well:
And the Romney campaign has explicitly stated that it will not preserve Obamacare’s cuts to Medicare. “Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have always been fully committed to repealing Obamacare, ending President Obama’s $716 billion raid on Medicare, and tackling the serious fiscal challenges our country faces,” said Romney policy director Lanhee Chen in a Monday statement. “A Romney-Ryan Administration will restore the funding to Medicare, ensure that no changes are made to the program for those 55 or older, and implement the reforms that they have proposed to strengthen it for future generations.”

It looks like the Romney campaign is going to start hammering Obama on the Medicare cuts used to fund Obamacare.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Whose Budget?

A Romney memo suggests that the campaign will not sign on totally to all the details of the 2012 House budget:
1)    Does this mean Mitt Romney is adopting the Paul Ryan plan?
  • Gov. Romney applauds Paul Ryan for going in the right direction with his budget, and as president he will be putting together his own plan for cutting the deficit and putting the budget on a path to balance.
  • Romney’s administration will go through the budget line by line and ask two questions: Can we afford it? And, if not, should we borrow money from China to pay for it?
  • Mitt Romney will start with the easiest cut of all: Obamacare, a trillion-dollar entitlement we don’t want and can’t afford.
  • Mitt Romney also laid out commonsense reforms that will make good on our promises to today’s seniors and save Social Security and Medicare for future generations.

Reform Details

Yuval Levin offers a sympathetic exposition of the Wyden-Ryan Medicare reform proposal.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

What Might Romney Hope to Gain by a Ryan Pick?

So Paul Ryan will be the vice-presidential nominee for the Republican party in 2012.  What could be some of the advantages of a Ryan pick?
  • Ryan cements the loyalty of the "conservative" establishment.  Much of this establishment, in the Weekly Standard and the Wall Street Journal and various think tanks, have been skeptical of Romney but devoted fans of Ryan.  Now, this establishment can become top cheerleaders for the Romney campaign.
  • Ryan has been able to win in swing districts before.  Ryan's district, WI-01, is a paradigmatic swing district, bouncing between George W. Bush in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008.  In both 2004 and 2008 (and many other years), Ryan was able to win with big margins.  Perhaps Romney is hoping that will translate in the general.
  • Ryan is a fierce debater.  Quick on his verbal feet, Ryan seems to relish to chance to spar with top-line Democratic principals.  The vice-presidential debate in the fall could be a chance for Ryan to shine.
  • It changes the narrative.  The Obama campaign has tried to make this election about Romney's prior business experience and persona as businessman.  The Ryan pick could put a roadblock in front of this strategy.  With various signature policy proposals, Ryan might help change the campaign narrative to be about policy rather than personality.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Could Federal Spending Get to 20% of GDP by 2016?

I have a new piece up at the American Thinker looking at one of the claims of the Romney economic team:
Some on the left have assailed a Wall Street Journal op-ed by top Romney economic adviser Glenn Hubbard claiming that Mitt Romney's economic plans set the goal of having federal expenditures be 20% of GDP by 2016.  They currently stand at 24% of GDP.  As John Cassidy writes:
Is this credible? As far as the immediate future goes, Romney is promising austerity. Hubbard reiterates that he would aim to reduce federal spending from roughly twenty-four per cent of G.D.P. in fiscal 2012 to twenty per cent by 2016. Romney hasn't spelled out how he would reach this target, but simple arithmetic suggests he would need to impose about five hundred billion dollars in annual spending cuts, which is equivalent to more than three per cent of G.D.P.
I think it's a little more complicated than Cassidy lets on, however.
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Akin Wins in Missouri

Rep. Todd Akin wins a closely contested primary battle to face incumbent Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill.  Interestingly, Akin serves in Jim Talent's old district.  Talent narrowly won this Senate seat in 2002 only to lose it in 2006 to McCaskill.  Since 1994, this Senate seat has switched hands every time there's been an election.

Pensions, Anyone?

If this Daily Caller story holds up, it could be bad news for the White House:
Emails obtained by The Daily Caller show that the U.S. Treasury Department, led by Timothy Geithner, was the driving force behind terminating the pensions of 20,000 salaried retirees at the Delphi auto parts manufacturing company.
The move, made in 2009 while the Obama administration implemented its auto bailout plan, appears to have been made solely because those retirees were not members of labor unions.
The internal government emails contradict sworn testimony, in federal court and before Congress, given by several Obama administration figures. They also indicate that the administration misled lawmakers and the courts about the sequence of events surrounding the termination of those non-union pensions, and that administration figures violated federal law.
Delphi, a 13-year old company that is independent of General Motors, is one of the world’s largest automotive parts manufacturers. Twenty thousand of its workers lost nearly their entire pensions when the government bailed out GM. At the same time, Delphi employees who were members of the United Auto Workers union saw their pensions topped off and made whole.
This sends a troubling message about the administration's honesty and also raises questions about the administration's treatment of the middle class and notions of economic equity.  We'll have to see how it develops, but, as Ace says, this could be a big deal.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Unemployment by Educational Attainment

The Great Recession continues to depress the employment situation, especially for workers without a college degree.  Courtesy of the BLS, here are the seasonally-adjusted unemployment rates for workers by level of schooling for July 2012:
  • No high school diploma or GED: 12.7%
  • High school graduate: 8.7%
  • Some college: 7.1%
  • College degree or higher 4.1%

The Rise of the McGovernites?

Ed Morrissey draws attention to an interview with Martin Peretz, former owner of The New Republic.  Peretz regrets the rise of the McGovernite faction in the Democratic party:
"I bought the New Republic to take back the Democratic Party from the McGovernites,” the legendary editor and publisher Martin Peretz says. Now, he fears, George McGovern’s ideas may be back in vogue within the party. …
“You know, I disagreed with Bill Clinton on some things and I didn’t disagree with him on others,” Mr. Peretz recalls. But Mr. Clinton’s administration “was in the deep tradition of the Roosevelt-Truman idea.” He concludes: “In any case, I think the Democratic Party was restored to a center role. Yes, it took a lot for the Clinton administration to rescue Bosnia. And it took a lot for the Democrats to admit to a mistake in Somalia.” But they eventually did both.
“We’re now in a new era,” Mr. Peretz warns. “I think that Obama is a child, or maybe let’s say a grandchild, of the New Left, with casual moral judgments made about very intricate ethical alternatives.” Later he thunders: “Leading by following—it’s really a sick phrase.”
I think in many respects Peretz is right to trace Obama's political lineage to the New Left and the McGovernite faction of the Democratic party.

However, one factor left unmentioned by both Morrissey and Peretz is that the rise of the McGovernites in many ways was the transition of the progressive left to the politics of the chic.  Many forces backing McGovern were often culturally hostile to the American middle class and the American worker.  This hostility was important for the Reagan Revolution of the 1980s, as union members and other middle-class workers felt increasingly estranged from their usual Democratic allies.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Romney: Culture Matters

In the pages of the National Review, Mitt Romney makes the case that culture matters for economic prosperity:
But what exactly accounts for prosperity if not culture? In the case of the United States, it is a particular kind of culture that has made us the greatest economic power in the history of the earth. Many significant features come to mind: our work ethic, our appreciation for education, our willingness to take risks, our commitment to honor and oath, our family orientation, our devotion to a purpose greater than ourselves, our patriotism. But one feature of our culture that propels the American economy stands out above all others: freedom. The American economy is fueled by freedom. Free people and their free enterprises are what drive our economic vitality.
The Founding Fathers wrote that we are endowed by our Creator with the freedom to pursue happiness. In the America they designed, we would have economic freedom, just as we would have political and religious freedom. Here, we would not be limited by the circumstance of birth nor directed by the supposedly informed hand of government. We would be free to pursue happiness as we wish. Economic freedom is the only force that has consistently succeeded in lifting people out of poverty. It is the only principle that has ever created sustained prosperity. It is why our economy rose to rival those of the world’s leading powers — and has long since surpassed them all.
This attention to the cultural foundations of wealth is a classically conservative concern.  Culture might not be everything, but the role that culture plays in the economy should not be underestimated.

Cruz Wins

Last night, former Texas Solicitor General (and Tea Party favorite) Ted Cruz beat the Perry-backed Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst in the GOP Senate primary in Texas.  David Weigel considers some of the reasons why Cruz won; one of David Frum's correspondents offers some reasons for why Dewhurst lost.