As any parent knows, small children often believe that when you've been denied something you want, repeating your request over and over will eventually produce the result you're after. It works on occasion, if the stakes are low enough, the parents are weak of will, and the child is particularly exasperating. Fortunately, this behavior usually disappears around age eight or nine.
If you want to produce change, make politicians as terrified as this sandwich. (Flickr/Sakurako Kitsa)
As the effort to enact new gun legislation hobbles along, liberals have noted over and over that in polls, 90 percent or so of the public favors universal background checks. In speaking about this yesterday, President Obama said, "Nothing is more powerful than millions of voices calling for change." Then Jonathan Bernstein explained that opinion doesn't get political results, what gets results is action. I'd take this one step farther: what gets results is not action per se, but action that produces fear. I'll explain in a moment, but here's part of Bernstein's argument:
Around this time in 2004, liberals were panicking. The Democratic nominee for president, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, was lagging behind George W. Bush, who appeared to be on his way to a second term. This was baffling, and not in a Pauline Kael kind of way. It wasn’t so much that liberals couldn’t imagine the person who would vote Bush—at the time, it wasn’t hard to find a Bush voter—but that conditions were terrible, and it was a stretch to believe that America would re-elect a president who brought the country into two messy wars and the most sluggish economy since WWII.
The big story late last week, after the Democratic National Convention ended, was that President Obama had received a monster bump—Nate Silver put it at almost eight points—made all the more dramatic when compared to Republican challenger Mitt Romney's measley plus one. But Obama isn't the only one leaving the party in Charlotte on an upward path: a new poll today shows Elizabeth Warren pulling even with Scott Brown, the Massachusetts Republican who she wants to replace in the Senate.
This kid should clearly have been at home watching TV. (Flickr/NewsHour)
When Mitt Romney gave his convention speech on Thursday, as far as we can tell the collective response from the everyone in the country was, "Meh." I haven't seen any Democrats who said it was a disaster, but I also haven't seen any Republicans who said it was fantastic. And lo and behold, Gallup reports that 40 percent of respondents in their poll said Romney's speech made them more likely to vote for him, while 38 percent said it made them less likely to vote for him. That net positive of +2 makes Romney's the least effective speech since Gallup started asking this question in 1984. That's probably partly because the speech was nothing special, and partly because people are largely going to react along partisan lines no matter what it actually contained.
But one thing that's weird about this is that 78 percent of people expressed an opinion about Romney's speech. And in a separate question, a nearly identical 76 percent said they had watched at least some of the Republican convention. If that were actually true, it would have been the highest-rated convention in history. But of course, it isn't.
The Prime Minister of Bhutan, Jigmi Thinley, presided over the United Nations (U.N.) conference in a beautiful gold and ruby striped gho. Thinley is a small man with a broad smile. As he spoke, his demeanor was calm and welcoming, even if his words were not.
“Mankind is like a meteor, blazing toward self-immolation along with all other life forms,” he said, gazing evenly at the rapt crowd.
The 2011 fourth quarter GDP numbers released today show a 2.8 percent growth in economic activity, due in part to the increase in spending around the holidays. But, what do GDP numbers really show? A new report from Demos, Beyond GDP, looks at the flaws in our dependence on GDP as the sole measure of progress and highlights important economic and social measures that are not captured by GDP.
Daniel Drezner has an interesting post arguing that tales of U.S. decline and China’s ascent are wildly exaggerated. The post contains lots of interesting analysis but this quote from Michael Beckley’s new article (see here for Andrew Sullivan’s analysis) in International Security had me scratching my head:
The widespread misperception that China is catching up to the United States stems from a number of analytical flaws, the most common of which is the tendency to draw conclusions about the U.S.-China power balance from data that compare China only to its former self. For example, many studies note that the growth rates of China’s per capita income, value added in high technology industries, and military spending exceed those of the United States and then conclude that China is catching up. This focus on growth rates, however, obscures China’s decline relative to the United States in all of these categories. China’s growth rates are high because its starting point was low. China is rising, but it is not catching up.
Congress' studied effort at ignoring the Occupy movement isn't that surprising when you take a look at legislators' tax returns: Many representatives sit comfortably in the 1 percent. Between 1984 and 2009, the median income of members of the House ballooned from $280,000—an already impressive figure—to $725,000, according to the new Panel Study of Income Dynamics from the University of Michigan. An analysis of the study in The Washington Post did not include figures for the Senate. In comparison, the median income of an American family has slipped from $20,600 to $20,500 over the same time period.
There's a part of me that wonders whether it's worth expending time and energy explaining just how shallow and uninformed Herman Cain is, since he is most assuredly not going to be the Republican nominee for president. But at the moment he's actually leading the polls, so I guess we have no choice. To wit, there is something he has said a few times in interviews that has bugged me, when he's asked about how the figures add up in his 9-9-9 tax plan. Here's an example:
The Republican "cut, cap and balance" plan caps federal spending at 18 percent of the previous year's gross domestic product. Federal spending has not been at that level since 1966. This chart, courtesy of the Center for American Progress, explains how the world has changed since then.
Among the many problems with Paul Ryan's draconian budget plan is the idea that federal spending can and should be capped at 20 percent of GDP.
Let's start with why the "should" part is problematic. Like the president's budget commission, which called for capping spending at 21 percent of GDP, fiscal conservatives make the assumption that terrible things will happen if federal spending goes above some magic point. But where is the evidence that a few percentage points actually makes any difference at all when it comes to economic growth?
The jobs report released earlier this month reported a surprising amount of jobs growth, even though it continued to show that we aren't producing enough to dig ourselves out of 9.6 percent unemployment.
Kevin Drum certainly does an admirable fisking of claims that "uncertainty" is driving the economic doldrums, thoroughly refuting the confusion that businesses apparently have about the future of government policy. The broader question about "uncertainty," though, is this: When has their ever been a consensus that government policy won't change? That is, has there even been a time when businesses had complete certainty, or at least more than they do now?