To a large degree, the stimulus was hampered by budget cuts on the state and local level. States have to balance their budgets, and in a recession, this means deep cuts to payrolls and existing services. Economists estimate that if public employment had stayed steady through the recession and into the recovery, the joblessness rate would be at or below 7 percent. As it stands, states are on a cutting spree—state and local spending is at its lowest point since the 1980s—and as USA Todayreports, this is exacerbated by receding aid from the federal government:
On Monday, I did a Bloggingheads with Religion Dispatches’ Sarah Posner discussing my recent piece on Democrats and demographics, as well as Latino evangelicals, and the questionable existence of a “Catholic vote”.
When conservatives rail against redistribution, it’s important to understand what they mean by the term. It’s not that they are opposed to removing resources from one sector of the economy and moving them to another, but that they’re opposed to taxing funds from rich people, and directing them toward the poor. If you go from the other direction, taxing money from ordinary Americans and giving it to the rich, then there isn’t a problem.
The headline story at Politico is a look at the frustrations of journalists and other observers as they pertain to the 2012 presidential election. In short, they are frustrated with the “small scale” of the election, and the degree to which the campaigns are engaged in constant warfare over trivial concerns. Here’s Maggie Haberman and Alexander Burns:
Dating to the beginning of the cycle, 2012 has unfolded so far as a grinding, joyless slog, falling short in every respect of the larger-than-life personalities and debates of the 2008 campaign.
It’s obvious that the top line result from the new Bloomberg poll of the presidential race is an outlier. According to most pollsters, this is an even race, with neither candidate at a particular advantage. By contrast, Bloomberg gives Obama a 13-point lead over Romney, who only receives 40-percent support. When you consider that partisans have already chosen sides, and that Obama has lost significant support from white voters, there’s no way that this result is accurate (though it falls within the statistical range).
This, from Gary Wills at the New Yorker, is one the most important realities of contemporary American politics:
[T]he man being voted for, no matter what he says, dances with the party that brought him, dependent on its support, resources, and clientele. That is why one should always vote on the party, instead of the candidate. The party has some continuity of commitment, no matter how compromised. What you are really voting for is the party’s constituency. That will determine priorities when it comes to appointments, legislative pressure, and things like nominating Supreme Court justices.
At Real Clear Politics, Sean Trende doesn’t think that President Obama will benefit politically from his decision to unilaterally implement a lite version of the DREAM Act. In addition to the potential for backlash, there’s the fact that Latinos aren’t a major demographic in most swing states:
Last week, two years into her term, Teresa Sullivan was removed as president of the University of Virginia. Helen Dragas, rector of the University’s Board of Visitors—what most states call a Board of Regents—explained the situation with a brief statement, “The Board believes that in the rapidly changing and highly pressurized external environment in both health care and in academia, the University needs to remain at the forefront of change.” Of course, this explained nothing about the decision to remove Sullivan, who by all accounts was succeeding as president of the university.
Back in April, President Obama gave a speech to the American Society of News Editors, where he excoriated Mitt Romney—and the Republican Party—for its adherence to the “roadmap” devised by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan. In the speech, Obama presented the Ryan roadmap as modern Republicanism, distilled to its essence. He attacked the plan for its large, across-the-board tax cuts, its complete extension of the Bush tax cuts, and its plan to privatize Medicare. More importantly, he spelled out the implications of Ryan’s budget: to pay for his tax cuts, the federal government would have to suck the marrow from its social services.
Over at the New York Times, Ross Douthat has a mostly excellent take on the Wisconsin recall and what it means for American politics. The short story is that economic distress will result in a zero-sum politics, where both sides vie for the greatest gains while doing as much as possible to block their opponents. He exaggerates the extent to which this is true on the Democratic side—Democrats haven’t pushed laws to keep Republicans from voting, nor have they used legislation to attack core GOP constituencies—but the point is well taken.
Over at Talking Points Memo, Sahil Kapur reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has pulled the “sabotage” card on his House counterpart, Eric Cantor:
“You have heard, as I’ve heard, that there’s a battle going on between Cantor and [House Speaker John] Boehner as to whether or not there should be a [highway] bill,” Reid told reporters. “Cantor, of course — I’m told by others that he wants to not do a bill to make the economy worse, because he feels that’s better for them. I hope that’s not true.”
The results of the Wisconsin recall election weren’t surprising; for the last month, polls had shown Walker with a solid lead over his Democratic opponent. What was interesting—and a little surprising—was the extent to which President Barack Obama has maintained a strong position in the Badger State. Among the 2.4 million people who voted in last night’s election—a slight decrease from presidential turnout—52 percent support Obama. Obama’s performance is down from 2008, when he captured 56 percent of the vote, but Mitt Romney hasn’t captured the difference.
The latest survey from the Pew Research Center is a comprehensive look at Obama’s performance with the electorate over the past month, with good and bad news. On the good end, Obama is leading Romney among all voters, 49 percent to 42 percent. He’s maintained his 2008 strength among Latinos and African Americans, and is only losing white voters by 12 percent–a good sign for the incumbent. Indeed, his strong performance among white college graduates–48 percent to Romney’s 47 percent–makes up for his weak support among white without a college degree.
In today’s New York Times, David Brooks has an extended meditation on debt that relies on one giant omission:
Recently, life has become better and more secure. But the aversion to debt has diminished amid the progress. Credit card companies seduced people into borrowing more. Politicians found that they could buy votes with borrowed money. People became more comfortable with red ink.
Today we are living in an era of indebtedness. Over the past several years, society has oscillated ever more wildly though three debt-fueled bubbles. First, there was the dot-com bubble. Then, in 2008, the mortgage-finance bubble. Now, we are living in the fiscal bubble.