Sunday, September 30, 2012

American Stagnation: The Need for Renewal

I have a column up at The Daily Caller examining the current stagnation of the US economy:
In the life of almost all civilizations, a time comes where, as Yeats put it, “things fall apart.” The internal principles and assumptions that used to seem to work begin to break down. If the engines of growth have not ground to a halt, they certainly could use some fresh oil: stagnation replaces new opportunities. Everything that used to work suddenly doesn’t. What would have been an easy projection of power settles into a stalemate.

The United States has long been used to a steady pace of growth. A vibrant economy created more opportunities for Americans of all walks of life; the rising tide of growth really did lift all boats. This economic growth gave hope both to the nation as a whole and to distinct individuals. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, real U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) grew at an average annual rate of about 3.5% between January 1947 and January 2001. This rate of growth allowed for a doubling of the economy every 17-20 years.

Recent history tells a very different story, however. According to the BEA, between January 2001 and January 2012 the economy grew at an average annual rate of just 1.6%, less than half the average annual growth rate of the second half of the twentieth century. Nor can we entirely blame this stagnation on President Obama or even the Great Recession. During President George W. Bush’s presidency, from January 2001 to January 2009, annual GDP growth averaged 1.4%. Even during the period of growth between 2001 and 2007, annual GDP growth was just 2.7%. The supposed boom times in the past decade have lagged behind the average growth of the past; only about one year of the Bush presidency saw GDP growth greater than the average of the past. The Great Recession has only underlined the lost economic ground: as of April 2012, real GDP had only increased by about 2% since the economic peak of mid-2007. The U.S. economy has barely grown at all since 2007; that’s almost five years of average economic growth well under 1%.
Read the rest here.  Our current troubles really go back more than four years, and, in order to face them, we might need to find some new solutions or at least revise some old ones.

As I've suggested elsewhere, the restoration of the US's economic architecture in its broadest sense will likely be a crucial enterprise.
Ace notes the connections between law and normativity.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

All in This Together

In the wake of a tough period for Mitt Romney, various Republican candidates for a number of offices are suddenly finding themselves in increased danger.  Consider the Senate.

In Wisconsin, former governor Tommy Thompson seemed to have a strong advantage.  Now, many analysts rate this race---which could have been a straightforward pick-up---as a toss-up.  George Allen is struggling against Tim Kaine in Virginia for another seat held by a retiring Democrat (Jim Webb).  Missouri, which should have been an easy pick-up, now has edged closer into the Democratic column due to some of Todd Akin's statements (gaffes sometimes do matter a lot).

Republican Senate incumbents have also faced a troubling wave of polling.  In Massachusetts, Scott Brown's edge against Elizabeth Warren has slipped a little.  Nevada's Dean Heller's significant polling lead has now slipped to a point or two; a Rasmussen survey in July found him leading by nine points, but a more recent Rasmussen survey has him down to one point.

At the beginning of the year, when President Obama was viewed as being more vulnerable, Republicans had a better-than-even shot of taking the Senate.  Now, RealClearPolitics finds only 43 Republican "safe" or lean Senate seats with 9 toss-ups.  So Republicans would have to win at least 7 of 9 toss-ups in order to have a chance of taking the Senate (and that's only if Romney wins in the general).  The House tells a somewhat similar story.  Obviously, Republicans have a much better chance of holding the House than they do of taking the Senate.  But, as Bill Kristol notes, some recent polls have shown Democrats with a lead on the generic ballot (even Rasmussen's generic ballot polling gives Republicans a thin one-point lead).  Such a polling lead does not always translate to a majority in the House, but it does suggest possible dangers for the Republican majority.

The upshot of all of this is that Congressional Republicans might have a hard time decoupling their fates from that of Mitt Romney.  As Romney has slipped in the general election season, various candidates have also seen an increase in the weights holding down their electoral hopes.

Salon's Steve Kornacki and others have highlighted the following danger for Romney: that Beltway Republicans and other activists will view him as a lost cause, thereby jumping ship to focus on statewide and local races.  Kornacki reminds us that such an Operation Overboard occurred during Bob Dole's 1996 campaign against Bill Clinton.  At least a couple factors would suggest that this kind of abandonment would be unlikely to occur this time.  Romney is in a much stronger position against Obama than Dole was against Clinton, and Clinton had more bright spots to his record than the current president.

With things as close as they are on the presidential level, it would likely be counterproductive for various activist groups to turn their backs on Romney to focus on statewide races.  The weaker Romney seems on the top of the ticket, the more hurdles down-ticket candidates are likely to face.  Or, the stronger Romney is, the stronger many other Republican candidates will likely be.

So many Republicans are in the same electoral boat this year. Abandoning ship could simply leave Congressional candidates thrashing in the water, further from their electoral destinations than ever, as the waves slowly send them backwards.

The good news for Republicans is that the presidential race is still very winnable.  The Romney campaign's renewed focus on economic restoration---one edging toward offering economic solutions---could change the electoral dynamic in Romney's favor.  An affirmative, realistic plan for growth and renewal could become a vessel to carry Romney and other Republicans to the shore of victory.

(I acknowledge that many conservatives have expressed some skepticism about recent polling, but even polls put out by conservative-leaning organizations do not show a substantial lead for Romney---or even a lead at all.  The most recent FOX News poll had Obama up by 5.   Polling is not an exact science, so there are very likely errors in these polls.  But Republicans should not fool themselves: this will be a hard-fought campaign over the next few weeks.)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Teachers Unions Becoming More Bipartisan

It looks like some in the teachers unions across the country realize that many Republicans could by sympathetic to a message of local control and conservative skepticism of unaccountable bureaucracies:
While donations to Democrats still far outweigh contributions to Republicans, the proportion of union money going to Republican candidates this year, just over 8 percent, has doubled since the last election cycle, according to the institute. In some states, the increase has been steeper. In Ohio, the proportion of contributions to Republicans jumped to more than 21 percent this year from less than 1 percent in 2010. Similarly, in Illinois, where 16 percent of donations went to Republicans in 2010, the proportion has increased to 22 percent.
“The notion that just because you’re a Democrat” you can take the teachers’ unions for granted has changed, said Jim Reed, director of government relations for the Illinois Education Association.
As teachers grapple with a reform agenda backed by hedge funds and large philanthropic donors and championed by the Obama administration as well as some conservative Republicans, the unions are navigating a delicate political landscape where they increasingly pursue friends in unlikely places.

Team Romney Escalates on the Economy

The Hill reports that the Romney campaign reboot will place a new emphasis on manufacturing and industrial restoration:
That new strategy will involve a renewed focus on China and trade policy — a particularly salient issue as both candidates travel extensively in the manufacturing-oriented state of Ohio this week. Obama has consistently held a small lead in polls of the Buckeye State, and no Republican has ever won the presidency without securing Ohio.

"I think it's clear that the message on China has resonated not only with the voters, but you can tell with the response from the Obama campaign," Gillespie said. "They went up with an ad in response to it on China, and on top of that, the administration filed a case."

Gillespie was referencing a World Trade Organization case filed last week by the Obama administration charging China with unfairly subsidizing automobile parts. Romney had begun airing ads accusing Obama of being too lenient with China a few days before.

I've written before on how a turn to manufacturing could be helpful to the Romney campaign.  The rust-belt is in many ways an untapped political goldmine for Republicans: a message on industrial restoration could not only shore up Romney's standing in Ohio but could also improve the campaign's chances in Michigan and Pennsylvania.  Both states have played a key role on the "Blue Wall" that have given Democrats a floor of 250 electoral votes over the past twenty years.  If Romney can challenge Democrats there, he opens up the map (and his path to the presidency) considerably.

Via NRO: a memo by Romney campaign advisor Ed Gillespie that elaborates on this economic message and a new ad hitting the Obama administration's record on trade.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Building on the Economy

In the American Thinker, I lay out some suggestions about how the economy connects to other issues:
Most voters understandably have concerns about the economy foremost in their minds, but we should not forget that the economy is not just an isolated problem that ails us; in fact, the poor economy is both a symptom of a broader faltering and a factor that affects other parts of our national enterprise.  To wit:
  • A weakening economy limits the capacity of the U.S. to project its power across the world.  Economic growth powers military might and softer forms of geopolitical influence, so the lack of this growth weakens the U.S.'s hand in international affairs.
  • A poor economy pushes the federal government farther toward fiscal insolvency.  A huge driver of our current deficits is the terrible economic and employment picture.  Moreover, these huge deficits themselves can imperil the economy in the future through weakening the United States' credit and distorting the global market.
  • Economic stagnation imperils the dream of upward mobility that has been so central for the American ethos of free-market optimism.
  • The hollowing out of the economy leads to fewer opportunities for Americans of diverse talents and abilities.  A proliferation of opportunity is good fertilizer for the cultivation of skills and opportunity, so the shredding of opportunities also closes down many horizons.
  • The same psychology that has contributed to the current economic stagnation -- that toxic combination of shortsightedness, incompetence, cronyism, self-dealing, regulatory dysfunction, cocoon-like self-righteousness, and vanity -- does more than imperil our pocketbooks; it also troubles so many other enterprises within our nation.
  • An increasingly unstable and dissatisfying economic outlook threatens the middle class, the traditional bulwark of republican government, and many civil liberties.  Further economic decay may undermine the small-government foundations of this nation.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Brown v. Warren: The First Debate

Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown and his Democratic opponent, Elizabeth Warren, faced off in their first televised debate of the general election season.

The debate began with an exchange about character, which included Brown bringing up the claim that Warren falsely identified herself as a Native American in order to advance her career.  It then moved on to a discussion of tax policies, with Warren trying to suggest that Brown privileged tax-cuts for the wealthiest over tax-cuts for everyone else---an allegation that Brown strenuously denied.  Later topics included abortion, bipartisanship, energy, and religious freedom.

Brown looked a little uneven at the beginning of this debate, but he picked up steam by the second half.  An easy, relaxed delivery was an asset for Brown in early 2010.  Compared to Warren's rather steady delivery, Brown looked a bit flustered at times in the early part of the debate.

Warren, however, kept returning to the same few themes again and again.  This debate revealed an inversion of the dynamic that prevailed in 2010.  Then, Brown wanted to nationalize the election, reminding voters that he could be the 41st vote to stop some of President Obama's agenda or at least subject this agenda to bipartisan consensus.  Now, Warren is trying to attach Brown to national Republicans, stressing that a Brown victory in Massachusetts could help flip control of the Senate to Republicans.  Massachusetts voters might have been skeptical about giving Obama a blank check in 2010, but many of them appear inclined to vote for him in November.

Still, Brown can use a bipartisan appeal to draw some potential Obama voters away from Warren.  Even many of the Democratic voters in Massachusetts aren't exactly thrilled with the president's record, especially its economic disappointments.  Brown might be able to convince voters that Elizabeth Warren would be just another faithful vote for Obama when the nation really needs more bipartisan debate and openness to new solutions.

Brown might also find it helpful to focus more on trade reform and banking reform.  Mitt Romney has edged in both of these directions, and these issues seem like a territory that Brown could use to change the landscape of the policy debate.

I don't think this debate was a game-changer, but it does remind voters and pundits alike that this race could be close all the way down the wire.

UPDATE: Bill Jacobson agrees that no "knockout blow" was given and rightly notes Brown's many astute appeals to union members.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Growth for Everybody

Jim Antle reminds everyone that conservatives have long supported lowering the tax burden on the working poor and the middle class.

Not So Fast

Scott Brown and Linda McMahon rush to remind voters that they do not think that all poor Americans take no personal responsibility for themselves.

Monday, September 17, 2012

About That Video Tape...

A range of reactions to the Romney tape: Allahpundit, Patterico, Josh Barro, Jonah Goldberg, and Doug Mataconis.  The campaign is already trying to cope with these comments, which probably will cause at least some short-term political pain.

A few other thoughts, which might have less to do with the comments themselves than with the media fallout:
  • Conservatism works best when it appeals to a sense of unifying uplift (a sense the Romney campaign has been trying to cultivate of late).
  • Republicans should not be afraid to make a case for an economics that can benefit all Americans.
  • One can support small government without endorsing the notion of a Manichean struggle between "takers" and "makers."
  • Much of the increase in government dependency over the past few years has been due to the poor economy.  Many of those who are dependent upon government do not want to be dependent.  Free-market thinking can inspire a sense of hope tending toward individual empowerment.
 UPDATE: More thoughts from Romney.

Not Sunk Yet

Stories about the Romney campaign's travails---with requisite finger-pointing---are blazing across the web today.

It's crucial to remember, though, that Obama has not put this thing away yet---not by any means.  Throughout September 2004, President Bush led John Kerry by a 6-7-point margin. Kerry ate into that lead with the first debate.  Bush ended up winning by a little over 2 points.

Romney, however, lags behind Obama by only about 3 points, and that margin seems to be shrinking.  A four-point swing, which John Kerry pulled off against an incumbent in a much stronger economy, would be enough to put Romney over the top.

By sending a clear, focused message on the economy and other issues, Romney can decisively shift the momentum away from the Obama campaign.  The presidential debates present a major inflection point.  The electorate is dissatisfied with the status quo, but it also fears it could be worse and is not yet fully sold on the alternative offered by Romney.  If Romney can lay out his own case for restoration and renewal, one that will benefit a broad range of Americans, he can open the door for a November victory.  A Romney victory in November is no sure thing, but neither is an Obama one.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Some interesting points on Obama's use of negative campaigning and the struggles some of his past competitors have run into regarding this use.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Pennsylvania Close?

A new poll from the Philadelphia Inquirer shows Obama leading Romney in Pennsylvania by about 11 points (50-39); a poll by the Inquirer a few weeks ago had Obama's lead at 9.  Still, Obama is not above 50%.

Also, there's still room for Romney to make some gains in Pennsylvania.  He currently lags 11 points behind Obama among independents (36-47), and he only gets 71% of Republican votes.  Hopefully for Romney, more Pennsylvania Republicans will come home as election day nears.  And certainly many independents are open to persuasion.  By reversing the trend among independents, Romney can eat into Obama's lead.

Romney's current attacks on the administration's trade policy may be a way of gaining some ground in Pennsylvania.  Nearly 50% of Pennsylvania voters say that the economy/jobs is the single most important issue.  By highlighting the administration's policy failures while pointing in a new direction, Romney can use these economic concerns to leverage more support.

Pennsylvania can definitely be a state that is in play.  In 2010, it elected Tom Corbett as governor with the biggest margin for a non-incumbent Republican the state had seen in nearly 50 years (since 1962).  It also elected Pat Toomey to the Senate in 2010, and Toomey is considered a pretty strong conservative.  Over the past few years, Pennsylvania has been trending Republican; the right economic case can solidify this trend and bring Mitt Romney closer to the Oval Office.

PRC Controversies

As the Obama campaign parrots lines from the media organs of the People's Republic of China's ruling regime, the Romney campaign continues to assail the Obama administration's record on trade policy with the PRC.

Lanhee Chen, policy director for the campaign, posts the following comments to the campaign's blog:
When China cheats by holding down the value of their currency compared with ours, it makes their products artificially cheap. It's a rigged set-up that drives American manufacturers and American producers out of business, and kills jobs.
Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will hold China accountable, and ensure they play by the rules. American goods, and the hardworking people who produce them, deserve a fair shake in the global marketplace.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Manufacturing Rising

Katrina Trinko posts the a new ad from Romney attacking Obama for the loss of manufacturing jobs, especially to the People's Republic of China.

A key theme this ad hits upon---and one I've written on a number of times before---is that much of what has happened to US industry over the past few decades is often less a result of the pure "free market" operating and more a consequence of various national governments intervening in the market in order to encourage their industries.  Often, this intervention comes at the expense of the US worker.

Epistemic Closure in the West Wing

Daniel Halper notes an interesting episode in Bob Woodward's new book on the Obama administration.  After serving in the White House (and acting as one of the key policy figures in debates over health-care reform), Peter Orszag turned to write for the New York Times, among other places.  While writing for the Times, Orszag penned a column that said that the president's health-care reform did "many things right" but could have included some medical malpractice reform.

Orszag then ran the column by his colleagues at the White House:
Woodward adds, "Should he alert the White House? [Orszag] wondered. Better not to surprise them. With some discomfort, because a columnist is supposed to speak for himself, not his former employer, Orszag sent his draft to Valerie Jarrett. It was about three days before the column was scheduled to run. Here’s a draft, he wrote in an email to her. Let me know if you have any comments."

Jarrett did have a comment for Orszag, according to Woodward:

"Thanks, Jarrett wrote back. She offered no comments on the draft. The column ran as scheduled, unchanged from the draft Orszag had provided the White House. Orszag was in an airport when he got Jarrett’s email. How could you have done this? It’s ridiculous. You’re so disloyal. You have got to realize the health care bill is wildly unpopular, Orszag replied. Every single speech I give, if I lead with this reflection on its imperfections, the dynamic changes. People will then listen. You can’t hold this law out as perfect. It won’t sell. People think it’s a piece of crap. The weaknesses must be acknowledged. Then it’s credible to say, here’s why it is good and why it is the only thing that will work. Jarrett’s answer was delivered with Politburo finality: You have burned your bridges."

Halper focuses on the fact that the White House was invited to comment on this column before it was released, but what I find even more striking is the substance of Jarrett's reaction.

Orszag is clearly a friend of the administration, he wrote a column that suggests what else could be added to health-care reform in the future and that in no way criticizes what was passed in Obamacare, and Jarrett's reaction is to say that he's "burned [his] bridges."  If an ally's mild advice burns bridges, what doesn't burn them?

And Valerie Jarrett is no second-tier staffer.  She's one of the president's closest advisors.

An episode like this suggests one reason why the administration has found it so hard to change course: a resistance to both internal and external critique can leave an administration digging further and further into a rut, no matter how failed that rut may be.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Pivot to Policy

In preparation for its November match-up against Mitt Romney, you can be sure that, just as it has spent many hours reviewing Ted Kennedy's 1994 playbook against Romney, the Obama campaign has also spent plenty of time going over the 2004 Bush playbook against John Kerry.  John Kerry made a fatal tactical misstep: in casting himself as the blank antithesis of George W. Bush, he gave the Bush campaign plenty of negative space within which it could project its own image of Kerry as an effete flip-flopper.  And that projection worked.  President Bush barely squeaked out a victory (a little over a percentage-point swing would have meant a Kerry victory), but it was a victory nevertheless.

Now the Obama campaign seems to be using a two-pronged (and potentially self-contradictory) attack against Romney: he's either a malicious rich guy who wants to lay you off (Kennedy v. Romney) or a nullity who stands for nothing more than his own ambition (Bush v. Kerry).  Either way, Obama's your man.

The Romney campaign has long premised its eventual victory over Obama on the economic numbers: poor economy, Obama loses.  Operating on this premise, its greatest fear seems to be something like the following.  Since Obama can't win on the economy, the only way he can win is if Romney loses by embracing too many controversial policies or alienating some members of the conservative coalition or by making this election too much about him and not about the incumbent.  This strategy has many merits, but it also risks giving the president plenty of room to project certain policies onto Romney.  If Romney hopes in some ways to be the generic Republican, Obama also seeks to associate Romney with some of the most unpopular policies and effects of recent Republican governance.

And these attacks may be gaining some traction.  Obama's polling over the past month has bobbed in the high 40s, giving him a slight edge over Romney.

Now is certainly not the time to panic in Boston.  The economy still is in rough shape.  Unemployment remains at extended highs in a way unprecedented in the modern political era.  Deficit spending is through the roof.  The president's signature accomplishments are toxic for many in the general public.  Foreign affairs remain troubled.  Many in the center who voted for Obama are now leaning toward Romney or are undecided.

All these things augur well for Romney, and yet fears of the Kerry trap remain.  The recent bounce in Obama's polling has only exacerbated worries on the right that Romney's campaign has lost control of the narrative.  Some of these fears are overblown, but it might be worthwhile to consider how Romney could better feed the beast of the modern media machine.  The media is not going to talk about how bad the employment situation is or how miserable the economy is for the next two months.

In his convention speech and at various stump speeches, Romney has hammered home five key strategies for economic restoration: unlocking America's energy potential, trade reform, improving the skills of the American workforce, moving toward a balanced budget, and small-business-oriented regulatory reform (part of which may involve some tax reform).  Those five ideas represent a germ of policy discussion for the Romney campaign.

So let's build out from that germ to consider what topics the Romney campaign could talk about in order to drive the media narrative away from a focus on gaffes and the horse-race.
  • Financial reform:  Romney has already edged in the direction of banking reform beyond just repealing Dodd-Frank.  A burgeoning chorus on the right (at places like AEI, the Weekly Standard, and elsewhere) is embracing banking reform as a key one for economic vitalization, so taking on financial reform could be an opportunity to appeal to both the right and the center.  A policy that rallies your base while also speaking to the middle is political gold.
  • Trade:  Romney has made trade reform one of the central tenets of his five-point pitch for economic restoration.  Now is not the time to fear to speak at more length about it.  The middle and working classes have seen what poor and essentially anti-market trade policies have meant for their economic fortunes over the past few years.  Let them know about the alternative: a policy that makes the most of access to foreign markets while also ensuring market-oriented competition.
  • Health-care: Romney has already committed to repealing and replacing Obamacare, but recent statements have suggested that certain aspects of Obamacare might also be found in a Romney administration's approach to health-care.  It might be helpful for the campaign to lay out in a clear, focused way certain key policy levers of a Romney health-care reform---dealing with issues such as preexisting conditions, young persons' access to their parents' health-care plan, tax options for health-care and so forth.  The pre-Obamacare health-care system was far from perfect, and many Americans are not anxious to return to that earlier status quo.  By speaking in more detail about health-care, Romney can reassure Americans that he would do his best to improve health-care in the United States.
  • Energy:  Energy is a promising topic.  Americans feel the pain at the pump and at the increased cost of goods.  Moreover, the Obama administration has left itself open to attack on this issue.  Let Americans know how a Romney administration would make the most of US natural resources and encourage the creation of a renewed energy infrastructure.  It's more than just drilling for oil in more places: it's supporting a variety of types of energy harvesting (from solar to nuclear to wind and others) that can make US industry more competitive and improve the living standards of Americans.
  • The Middle Class:  Romney's campaign has recently been emphasizing the middle class.  Perhaps it might elaborate on why middle class restoration is important for the nation as a whole.  Voters are used to platitudes about the middle class, but, if Romney can explain why this middle class restoration is so important, voters might become more convinced that his plans will actually help the middle class and advance the economy.  Romney would be viewed as offering more than lip-service---he would be laying out a general set of principles.
It's true that, as some Romney advisors have reportedly said, big ideas move the electorate.  But when voters hear both sides pledging to restore economic prosperity, it will be the texture of policy differences that make the difference.  Voters have heard failed promises a plenty from politicians before.  Especially when many voters hold Republicans somewhat responsible for the crisis of 2008, blithe assertions that the next four years will be better than the past decade will not always be immediately believed.

We might note that one of the times Romney ran the strongest against Obama (and the only time he has led Obama in the Real Clear Politics polling average) was in the fall of 2011, the season of the 59-point economic plan.  Romney has the tendencies of the wonk, and the appearance of focused (not amorphous) competence is attractive to the electorate of a nation roiled by crisis after crisis.  When Kerry tried to run as the not-Bush, he lost.  When various Republicans tried to run as the not-Romney, they lost.  Romney likely cannot afford to be merely the not-Obama.  He must represent another way forward.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Eleven Years Later

From President Bush's remarks the day of the attacks eleven years ago:
Tonight I ask for your prayers for all those who grieve, for the children whose worlds have been shattered, for all whose sense of safety and security has been threatened. And I pray they will be comforted by a power greater than any of us spoken through the ages in Psalm 23: "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me."

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Not a Cakewalk Yet

Even as Gallup shows Obama leading Romney 49-44 among registered voters, Jim Hoft reminds us that a September 1980 poll showed Carter leading Reagan by 4 points.  Obviously, Reagan ended up defeating Carter decisively.

But there's no reason for Republicans to get overconfident.  The poll Hoft cites shows Carter garnering only 44% of the vote  (compared to 40% for Reagan), and, throughout most of the Gallup polling season, Carter was polling around 40 or under.  One poll in the summer had Carter down to 29%.  Obama has not polled anywhere near 40%; the Real Clear Politics polling average has him never dipping below 45% over the past year.

Yes, Obama has enjoyed a slight bounce, and, yes, those bounces often fade, and, yes, Obama is very vulnerable.  But Republicans shouldn't lull themselves into expecting an easy blowout, either.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Troubling Jobs Report Again

With only a net gain of 96,000 nonfarm payroll jobs, August looks like another fairly disappointing month for job growth.  Almost nine million jobs were created during Jimmy Carter's term.  At the rate of 96,000 jobs a month, it would take over 90 months to gain the number of jobs that happened in the 48 months of Carter's presidency.  It would take 140 months (or nearly 12 years) for the August job growth rate to catch up with the over 13 million jobs created under Reagan.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Real Accountability

Carol Iaonne actually speaks about personal responsibility for educational reform (and not just "accountability"):
And speaking of students, Rice and other Republicans who speak about education could do a great deal by appealing to the students themselves to study hard, be good, read worthwhile books, not make trouble, and obey the authorities in their schools. This would be far better than sending the message that they have no responsibility whatsoever and if they are failing, it is entirely the fault of their poor teachers and bad schools.   

Statism Rising

A DNC video instructs us that "government is the only thing we all belong to."  I appreciate the notion that every American citizen as an equal claim on the federal government and the value of a single national government uniting the various states of the United States.  But that DNC claim might be more than a little problematic.  I doubt, for example, that the Founders would agree with the notion of the state as the only thing uniting us.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Shadows of Value-Added

In part due to its embrace of President Obama's Race to the Top, the state of Ohio will be using value-added testing metrics to evaluate how well its teachers are performing.  An interesting detail?  The formula used to calculate teaching effectiveness will be hidden from the public (emphasis added):
Educators have long argued that it would be unfair to judge teachers based on test scores, because students all start the year with varying levels of knowledge. A teacher who has a class full of students who are all two grade levels behind in math could be strongly effective, yet all that teacher's students may still fail state standardized tests.
Value-added tries to rectify that bias by measuring student growth over the school year, not just their final scores. Battelle for Kids, the company contracted by the Ohio Department of Education to develop the state's value-added system, develops a formula that measures average growth for a group, say fourth graders in Ohio. The contents of that formula aren't public.