Elections

The Cost of the Debt-Ceiling Fight

(Flickr/jacqueline.poggi)

For a moment last fall, it looked as if the last-minute debt-ceiling deal was all for nothing. Democrats had caved to Republicans’ demands to cut spending in order to keep the government funded. But Standard and Poor’s decided that the brinkmanship displayed by John Boehner and Republicans reflected poorly on the country’s ability to pay its bills, and decided to lower the U.S.’s credit rating anyway from AAA to AA+. Luckily, that decision was taken more as a reflection of the rating agency than a proper assessment of the country’s credit-worthiness. The U.S. continues to sell Treasury bonds at record low interest rates, a sign that investor confidence hasn’t been shaken.

Far-Off State Capitals Are More Corrupt

(Flickr/kmillard92)

A new paper shows that state capitals located in less-populated areas are more likely to breed corruption. The paper, authored by Filipe R. Campante of Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and Quoc-Anh Doh of Singapore Management University, tested what seems to be a logical idea: when lawmakers are more out of sight, they can get into more trouble. Turns out that in this case, the logical idea is the right one.

Actually, it’s Greece’s Election

ATHENS—To hear the leaders of the European austerity party and a lot of commentators tell it, the upcoming Greek election will be a “referendum” between keeping Greece’s austerity commitments and staying in the Eurozone—or recklessly walking away. A vote for a centrist coalition, supposedly, is a vote for staying in; a vote for the left is a vote for throwing caution to the winds and destroying Greece.

But viewed from Greece, that framing is totally wrong.

No Taxmageddon Solution Before November

(Flickr/Nasa hq photo)

Congress is deadlocked on a host of issues that will need to be solved before the end of the year lest the country plunge off a fiscal cliff at the start of 2013. If no action is taken, all of the Bush tax cuts will expire, the payroll tax will return to higher rates, and the full-sequester spending cuts will go into effect, with the debt ceiling hitting its limit shortly thereafter. Estimates from the Congressional Budget Office released early this week paint a horror story for the start of 2013, with the economy contracting by 1.3 percent.

Romney's Ambitious First Day

(Screenshot from campaign ad)

Perhaps Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign wasn't meaningless after all. During the Florida primary, I tracked Gingrich and his ludicrous proposals to overhaul the entire federal government so quickly upon taking office that he would barely have time to change into a tux for the inauguration parties. His extensive list of promises for day one was absurd, yet it seems to have influenced Mitt Romney. Romney's first general-election ad was titled "Day One," and now the Republican nominee revisits the same idea in a new ad, unimaginatively called "Day One, Part Two."

Marco Rubio Is Already Tired of the Senate

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)

Marco Rubio spent much of the past year denying his ambitions to attain higher office. He would shoot down reporters every time they questioned his desire to join the 2012 Republican ticket as vice president, claiming his intent was solely to learn the ins and outs of the Senate. "I don't want to be the vice president right now, or maybe ever. I really want to do a good job in the Senate," he said in an interview last month.

But now that the veepstakes has kicked, off Rubio's adopted a far different tone. From a speech in D.C. yesterday:

Clinton as Veep Wouldn't Change the Election

(DoD Photo By Glenn Fawcett)

Polls remain essentially tied between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney as the campaign heads into the pre-convention summer slog. That gives pundits plenty of time to chew over various scenarios for how each candidate could reconfigure their campaigns before the general election. The veepstakes is already the dominant story on Romney's side, but some have also begun speculating about Obama's running mate.

Merkel in the Minority

(Flickr / Environment Blog)

ATHENS—The European austerity caucus led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel is coming apart, but Germany retains the power to block the newly forming coalition for growth as a solution to the eurozone crisis. Tonight’s summit dinner in Brussels is unlikely to produce a breakthrough.

But what a difference an election makes. Since Francois Hollande was elected President of France less than three weeks ago, leaders that had been bullied into siding with the Germans are breaking loose.

States Lag on Health Exchanges

(Flickr/GenBug)

Once the law is fully implemented, health care exchanges will be the part of the Affordable Care Act we likely notice most. The exchanges were designed to turn health insurance into something approximating a real market—unlike the current system which creates a myriad of blocks that prevent the consumers from purchasing health insurance as they would any good, forcing families to either receive insurance through their employer, pay exorbitant costs for individual, or go without any coverage. The exchanges—along with subsidies for low and middle-income Americans—will ease that burden, allowing consumers to select a plan from a central hub without worrying about pre-existing conditions affecting their coverage.

Bipartisan Watermelon Destruction

(Still photo from campaign ad)

Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson is out with his first campaign ad today, and it's about as bizarre as you would expect.

The ad is reminiscent of Herman Cain's avant-garde commercials (even nabbing the same "any questions" tagline), though thankfully Johnson reserves his destruction for fruit and leaves any innocent animals alone.

Repeal and Pretend to Replace

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)

Maybe Republicans aren't so opposed to health care reform after all. After grandstanding against the Affordable Care Act for the past few years, Republicans aren't ready to let the entire bill die should the Supreme Court overturn the law later this summer. Congressional Republicans are crafting a contingency plan to reinstate some of the popular elements of the bill in that scenario, according to Politico. It's a clear indication that the GOP has learned the same lesson as Democrats: while the all-encompassing idea of Obamacare may fair poorly in the polls, voters typically support individual elements of the bill.

Tie Goes to the President

(Flickr/acqueline.poggi)

The basic odds make it fairly unlikely that the Democrats will maintain their Senate majority. They only hold a narrow 53-47 edge after the 2010 midterms, and the party must defend 23 seats in 2012, compared to just ten for Republicans. Their troubles only increased when moderate Democrats hailing from conservative states—Ben Nelson and Kent Conrad as the most notable—decided that now was the time to retire, all but ceding their spots to the GOP. Every scenario looked doom and gloom for their chances. But then Republicans decided to sabotage those odds. First Olympia Snowe announced her retirement, after growing tired of her party's partisan rancor. Her seat is expected to go to the independent—but Democratic friendly—candidate Angus King.

The Unecessary Radicalism of Citizens United

WikiMedia COmmons

One of the many striking things about the Supreme Court's infamous Citizens United decision is how poorly the facts of the case fit the extremely sweeping holding. The potential First Amendment issues involved with campaign finance regulation exist on a spectrum. Political editorials, even when published in corporate-owned media and attempting to influence the campaign, are obviously "pure speech" that can be restricted only in extraordinary circumstances. Direct donations to candidates, on the other hand, are further removed from pure speech and also raise serious problems of democratic equality, so the leeway that can be given to government to restrict them might be greater.

A Mayor for the Occupy Set

Jefferson Smith isn't planning to shed his activist and political organizer cred if elected to run Portland.

(Flickr / hotshot977)

In the early 2000s, Jefferson Smith grew a reputation in progressive grassroots political circles as the hulking 6’ 3” strawberry-blond force of nature behind Oregon’s The Bus Project, a non-profit merry band of allies named for a 1978 touring coach bought on eBay, which busied itself , training scores of young people in the mechanics of democracy, signing up tens of thousands of new voters, and selling t-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “Vote, F*cker.” In 2008, Smith won election to the Oregon House of Representatives, where he memorably convinced colleagues on both sides of the aisle to Rickroll the chamber, one word at a time.

Bush Endorses Romney

(White House photo by Eric Draper. Via Wikimedia Commons)

Mitt Romney clearly coveted the endorsement of George H.W. Bush. He first met with Bush the Elder in December at the former president's Texas home in an appearance everyone assumed equaled a full endorsement. However Romney staged a second event in March for the official endorsement as another photo-op with Bush 41. Meanwhile the other Bush who once occupied the oval office was nowhere to be seen, never rolled out as a public endorser even though Romney clearly wrapped up the nomination weeks ago.

George W. Bush finally entered the fray Tuesday to let the country know whom he plans to vote for this fall:

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