Illinois

Politifact Gives Up on Actual Fact-Checking

I’ve written before about Politifact’s approach to fact-checking, which seems to swing between actual consideration of the facts and embarrassing attempts to curry favor with conservatives and establish “credibility.” Last night’s “ fact-check ” of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union falls into the former category. Here’s the line in question from last night’s speech: “In the last 22 months, businesses have created more than three million jobs. Last year, they created the most jobs since 2005.” Considering the depth of the recession, three million jobs isn’t good enough for a robust recovery, but there’s no doubt that this is a true statement. That, however, didn’t stop Politifact from labeling it “half-true.” Say what? In his remarks, Obama described the damage to the economy, including losing millions of jobs “before our policies were in full effect.” Then he describes the subsequent job increases, essentially taking credit for the job growth. But labor economists tell us...

Insourced

Today's Balance Sheet: Obama tries to bring manufacturing jobs back home. 

As part of an effort to push "insourcing," President Obama is proposing tax incentives for companies that move manufacturing jobs back to the United States. “I don’t want America to be a nation that’s primarily known for financial speculation, and racking up debt and buying stuff from other nations,” Obama said during an announcement yesterday. “I want us to be known for making and selling products all over the world stamped with three proud words, ‘Made in America.’” The U.S. economy added manufacturing jobs for the first time in over a decade the past two years, so the president hopes the incentives will help deepen that trend. The proposal—which would also curtail tax breaks for those who continue to search for cheaper labor abroad—gives a hint of the populist economic message Obama plans to use in his State of the Union address and the general-election campaign. Reviving American manufacturing is a compelling narrative, especially on the campaign trail, but the truth is it's still...

Obama Announces New Chief of Staff

Budget Director Jack Lew will take over for Bill Daley.

President Barack Obama announced Monday that Bill Daley, who has served as his administration's chief of staff for one year, is stepping down. In a statement to the press at the White House, President Obama said that Daley's resignation letter last week took him by surprise and that he initially refused to accept it. "But in the end, the pull of the hometown we both love—a city that's been synonymous with the Daley family for generations—was too great," Obama said, referring to Chicago, where the two men first met. Daley took over as Obama's chief of staff in 2011 after Rahm Emanuel left office to make a successful bid for the Chicago mayor's office. During his year-long tenure, Daley oversaw bitter fights over the American Jobs Act and the budget. Jack Lew, a D.C. veteran who previously served as budget director for President Bill Clinton and deputy director for the Department of State under Hillary Clinton, was recommended by Daley to succeed him at the post. Most recently, Lew...

A Trip Down Memory Lane

As we watch Republicans give a collective "Meh" to their contenders for president, I thought it might be a good time for a trip down memory lane. Four years ago, Barack Obama won the Iowa caucus and delivered what may be his best speech ever. Take a quick gander and remember those heady days: Does it still give you shivers? I always felt that the most compelling thing about Obama's campaign rhetoric was how he brought the listener into his own epic story. Let me revisit what I wrote at the time: But if you were born in the '60s, '70s, or '80s, history probably isn't something you participated in, it's something you watched on television. You watched America's all-volunteer military invade a succession of small countries (Grenada, Panama, Kuwait, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq...) but never worried about you or your brother going to fight, unless it were by choice. The most significant event of the second half of the 20th century -- the breakup of the Soviet Empire -- happened on television...

Read My Lips: No New Tax Cuts

Yesterday, the House rejected a Senate compromise bill on the payroll tax cut, which is set to expire January 1. In all likelihood, this means that taxes will rise—an average of $40 per paycheck, according to the latest White House press blitz—unless House Speaker John Boehner shores up enough support to pass a two-month extension or brokers a new deal. Although Obama hasn't left Washington for vacation in Hawaii yet, he isn't getting too involved in the imbroglio, having learned the danger of using the bully pulpit with his jobs plan—for Republicans, whose sole aim seems to be to frustrate the president's agenda, any endorsement from Obama amounts to a kiss of death. “It’s like déjà vu all over again. It’s like ‘Groundhog Day,’” said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), referring to the 112th Congress’ propensity for stalemate. Waxman is right, but this time it's a bit different. Previous congressional battles over the stimulus, health care, and the jobs plan were rooted in electoral...

Obama Inches Up to 50 Percent Approval

After months of low approval ratings, President Obama’s popularity has begun to trend upwards toward 50 percent. According to the latest survey from ABC News and The Washington Post , Obama has advanced to a 49 percent approval rating. What’s more, he maintains a substanial advantage over Republicans in Congress on who the public trusts to protect the middle-class, 50 to 35 percent. This is almost certainly a product of the recent fights over payroll tax cuts and the unemployment insurance extension, where the president is on the side of most Americans, compared to congressional Republicans, who are pushing forward on a deeply unpopular position. On the economy, his approval rating is 41 percent, but this is an improvement from earlier in the year, when it was near 30 percent. The Washington Post and ABC News aren’t the only ones to document Obama’s rising stock with the public. In their most recent survey of the public, CNN found that 49 percent of the public approves of the...

Latinos Flock to Swing States

One of President Obama’s big advantages in 2012 is the extent to which his demographic coalition is growing at a faster rate than the Republican one. Yes, like almost all Democratic presidential candidates since the 1960s, Barack Obama will lose the white vote by considerable margins, but a larger Latino vote—plus similar margins for turnout and vote share—could offset that. At the moment, according to the latest poll from Univision, two-thirds of Latinos approve of Obama’s job performance. More importantly, the Latino population has grown fastest in the swing states that will prove crucial to the president’s reelection effort. This chart from the Wall Street Journal offers a nice illustration of the fact: Of course, with all of this, it’s important to remember that high Latino turnout is not a given. Indeed, Univision found that 53 percent of Latinos are less enthusiastic about Obama than they were in 2008. A larger electorate might offset this somewhat, but how much is an open...

How President Obama's Economic Message Could Backfire in 2012

If there was anything notable about President Obama’s speech in Osawatomie, Kansas last week, it was the extent to which he attacked economic inequality in the United States, and its deletrious effects on income mobility: [O]ver the last few decades, the rungs on the ladder of opportunity have grown farther and farther apart, and the middle class has shrunk. A few years after World War II, a child who was born into poverty had a slightly better than 50–50 chance of becoming middle class as an adult. By 1980, that chance fell to around 40%. And if the trend of rising inequality over the last few decades continues, it’s estimated that a child born today will only have a 1 in 3 chance of making it to the middle class. It’s heartbreaking enough that there are millions of working families in this country who are now forced to take their children to food banks for a decent meal. But the idea that those children might not have a chance to climb out of that situation and back into the middle...

Important Election News from Across the Pond

Over the last week, there has been a torrent of stories illustrating the extent to which the Obama re-election team is observing the Republican presidential contest and developing their strategy for the general election season. And while I’m sure that the Obama team has devoted a fair amount of attention to events in the GOP, I’m also sure that they’ve devoted even more time to events across the Atlantic, where—as Carmel Crimmins and Gavin Jones note for Reuters —austerity has pushed Europe to the edge of another recession: With the crisis spreading like wildfire through the currency bloc’s core, pushing up borrowing costs to unsustainable levels, countries are relying more on blunt budget cuts, than time-consuming and difficult structural reforms, to get results. The upshot is ballooning dole queues, shuttered businesses and public services stretched to breaking point. There’s no question that a second European recession would trickle down to the United States and compromise our...

Pardon Me

Instead of forgiving cronies and crooks, the president should use his executive authority to pass the DREAM Act.

One of the little joys of teaching a presidency class in the fall is that my session on presidential pardons falls around Thanksgiving so I can lead off with video of the leader of the free world pardoning a turkey . However, one of the interesting things about the pardoning power is that, with the exception of impeachment charges, “the President’s authority to grant pardons [for federal offenses] is essentially unfettered” as this CRS report explains. Presidents can pardon individuals or classes of people, with or without conditions. While the possibilities are vast, modern presidents use the power to pardon sparingly . Other than a few political cronies, moonshiners , and fowl friends, presidents have been reluctant to appear “soft on crime” and slow to use the pardon power. And since 1980, almost all pardons have been for specific individuals after the president and his staff have weighed the merits of each person’s case. But it is also possible for presidents to pardon entire...

Slow and Low (That Is the Tempo)

2012 might find President Obama with a bad combination of low approval ratings and slow economic growth.

President Obama might not be a “teflon president” like Ronald Reagan, but it’s fair to say that his approval ratings have been resiliant in the face of political adversity. Despite the poor economy, the public’s disgust with Washington, and his own missteps, Obama has maintained job approval ratings in the low-to-mid 40s, with only a few dips under 43 percent support. Even still, when compared to historical figures, Obama is at the low end of approval for presidents in their third year. Here is Gallup with more : Obama is a stones’ throw from Jimmy Carter territory, which doesn’t bode well for his reelection campaign. With that said, we’re a year away from the election, and a good deal can change over the next year. But something tells me that come November, we’ll be in one of the scenarios that Nate Silver outlined last month, where economic growth is stagnant, Obama’s approval is low, and the GOP is riding a wave of enthusiasm.

Ignoring the Obama Presidency

Among liberals, and most political observers, it’s widely acknowledged that President Obama took a major political hit when he pushed for health-care reform against Republican intransigence and public opposition. The cost of winning comprehensive health-care reform—a longtime liberal dream—was a resurgent and powerful Republican Party. If political courage is defined by the willingness to suffer politically for the sake of good public policy, then Affordable Care Act stands as a testament to the president’s political courage. Which is why I also have no idea what National Journal ’s Josh Kraushaar is talking about when he writes the following : One of President Obama’s political weaknesses in his first term has been that he’s all-too-willing to avoid making tough decisions, hesitant to expend political capital for potential long-term gain. Throughout his first term in office, he’s had a cautious governing style, and has avoided taking on some of his party’s core constituencies…when it...

Forecasting Elections with Real-Time Economic Data

This post is jointly written with Anton Strezhnev , a very bright Georgetown undergraduate. One of the challenges in forecasting elections is that economic data are often inaccurate when first released. Some of the adjustments are substantial. Just to illustrate this point, the image below ( source ) shows the change from original issue to current estimate in a composite index of economic performance: the Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI). The magnitude of some of these adjustments could potentially affect forecasts in what the models predict to be a close election . Moreover, there is serial correlation in the direction of the errors. So, if you are rooting for Obama you may think that the more recent positive adjustments mean that Obama has a slightly better chance than the models predict. If you are a forecaster, the serial correlation may allow you to better predict adjusted values. Economists have long recognized that the use of real-time versus ex post adjusted values...

AP Suggests Obama has a Donor Problem — What does the Empirical Evidence Have to Say?

With Nate Silver asking today whether Obama is toast in 2012 , I thought it would be a good time to revisit an AP story last week about Obama’s supposed donor problem . The AP reported that: Tens of thousands of people who together gave millions of dollars to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign have gone missing this time around. Their failure to give so far may signal that some of the president’s earliest supporters have lost enthusiasm. I was initially a bit suspicious of this conclusion – namely because in 2007 Obama was heading into a hotly contested primary race while in 2011 he is not, so I reached out to Adam Bonica , a Stanford University political scientist and expert on political donations to campaigns. Following the success of John’s recent dialogue format posts , I recast our emails as a Q&A: Q (me): Is it correct to conclude, as the AP report noted, that “ larger donations are the strongest signs of enthusiasm “? A (Bonica): I don’t think this is really the case...

Republicans or Obama, Voters Can't Decide

One of the striking things about the current political moment is the extent to which anti-incumbent sentiment hasn’t abated since last year. The poor economy has left Americans in a continuous state of anger toward their elected officials, regardless of political affiliation. In particular, according to the latest poll from United Technologies and National Journal , voters are down on both the congressional GOP and President Obama. When asked what outcome they would prefer in next year’s elections, “44 percent of registered voters said they would like to see a Republican elected, while 42 percent want Obama to win a second term,” a statistical tie. Likewise, when asked if Republicans should retain control of the House, ”41 percent said yes and 43 percent said they would prefer Democrats to recapture the majority." Overall, the public is evenly split; 35 percent of Americans want Democrats to retain the White House and take the House, while 34 percent of Americans want the reverse –- a...

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