Jamelle Bouie

Tough Choices

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. Politics has become hyper-partisan and totalistic, and while Douthat doesn’t say it, you can trace this to the Republican Party’s utter disregard for institutional norms (see: the filibuster ). The problem with Douthat’s argument comes at the end, where—in a bold bit of projection—he praises Republican innovation and accuses the Democratic Party of policy nihilism: The House Republicans have spent the past two years taking tough votes on entitlement...

Sabotage Makes Sense!

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.” Cantor’s office made a speedy response, calling the charge “ridiculous and patently false,” and John Boehner’s office was even more succinct: “That’s bullshit,” said his spokesman Michael Steel. It’s impossible to know whether Republicans have a strategy to sabotage the economy ahead of the election, but it’s hard to fault Democrats for their suspicions. Not only is the GOP obstinate on the question of stimulus—despite wide agreement among economists that the economy needs an...

Wisconsin, an "Elastic" State

(OldOnliner/Flickr)
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. As with John McCain, only 43 percent of Wisconsin voters support Mitt Romney. Even still, that’s a significant swing, and indicative of a point Nate Silver made last month. In an excellent post , Silver offered a different way to evaluate swing states. Rather than categorize states on the basis of their vote margins—how close the two parties' numbers are—Silver rated them on the basis of their "elasticity" or electoral...

It's Still a Toss-Up

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. If Obama can improve his performance among downscale whites–even if it’s only by a percentage point or two–he’ll be in significantly better shape. There’s been some speculation that the Obama campaign’s attacks on Bain Capital have backfired, but there’s little evidence of that in the Pew survey. Obama wins voters with incomes of $75,000 to $99,000–47 percent to 45 percent–and nearly matches Romney with higher income voters, 47 percent to...

Is it Austerity or Is It Theft?

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. Missing from this narrative is a few big things. Over the last thirty years, incomes have for ordinary people have stagnated at the same time that housing, health care, and education costs have gone up. Contrary to Brooks, Americans didn’t suddenly become, en mass, a group of irresponsible spendthrifts; by and large, Americans went into...

Is There a Case for Liberal Optimism?

At National Journal , Ron Brownstein marshals evidence to show that, despite the large benefits they’ll reap from the Affordable Care Act, white working class voters are convinced that the program will hurt their prospects: According to figures provided by Kaiser, in their latest survey, 35 percent of non-white respondents believe that the law will benefit their family. That compares to just 14 percent who believe they will be worse off (the remaining 39 percent don’t think it will make much difference). Whites offer nearly a mirror image: just 18 percent believe the law will leave their family better off, compared to 38 percent who believe they will be worse off as a result. The skepticism among whites is most concentrated among whites without a college degree. Just one-in-seven of them believe health care reform will personally benefit them or their family. Among college whites about one-in-four expect to personally benefit from the reform. On a similar note, here’s Josh Eidelson,...

Extortion Politics

As others have noted , it’s not hard to see the Keynesian case for Mitt Romney’s presidency. Because of Republican opposition, there’s little chance that President Obama could pass stimulus in his second term. Instead, it’s more likely that we’ll stay on the current path of deficit reduction and inaction with regards to the employment crisis. By contrast, if elected president, Mitt Romney would enjoy a cooperative Republican majority that might be willing to pass stimulus if Romney proposed it. What’s more, Romney has made a clear promise to begin his term with large tax cuts, and delay his spending cuts for subsequent years, which is just another way of promising Keynesian stimulus if he’s elected. If you assume that most Republicans are insincere about their opposition to spending, then in the short-term, at least, a Romney presidency might actually be better for the economy. This argument makes perfect sense, but it’s bothered me for a while. In his take on the Keynesian case for...

Are Donors Less Enthusiastic About Obama?

Are Obama donors less enthusiastic than they were in 2012? Writing for Buzzfeed , Ben Smith says yes : In 2008, more than 550,000 gave more than $200 to Barack Obama, entering their names in the longest list of individual donors ever seen in American politics. […] But now, as Obama struggles to keep pace with his 2008 fundraising clip, that list offers a cross-section of Democratic disappointment and alienation. According to a BuzzFeed analysis of campaign finance data, 88% of the people who gave $200 or more in 2008 — 537,806 people — have not yet given that sum this year. And this drop-off isn’t simply an artifact of timing. A full 87% of the people who gave $200 — the sum that triggers an itemized report to the Federal Elections Commission — through April of 2008, 182,078 people, had not contributed by the end of last month. It’s absolutely true that donations have dropped off from 2008, and while Smith has mustered plenty of quotes from dissatisfied Democrats, it’s not clear that...

Seriously, Romney Isn't a Moderate

I try not to pay as much attention to politics over the weekend—it’s how I keep my sanity—but I couldn’t help but notice this when it popped in my inbox yesterday morning: [Eric] Fehnrstrom, pressed by George Will on Romney’s view of House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget: ‘He’s for the Ryan plan. He believes it goes in the right direction. … At least the Paul Ryan plan puts us on a path toward a balanced budget. It gets those annual deficits down, in a way that this president has been unable to do.’ In case you missed it, Mitt Romney’s chief advisor just told a national audience that Romney is “for” the most regressive economic plan to ever come out of Congress. Remember, the actual Ryan plan —as opposed to the one described by Fehnrstrom—will reduce taxes on the wealthy Americans, add trillions to the debt, and make sharp cuts to existing social services. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, social spending accounts for nearly two-thirds of Ryan’s budget cuts...

"We've Heard it All Before"

(Wikipedia)
The latest Obama campaign ad—which will air mainly in swing states—continues the attack on Mitt Romney’s record in Massachusetts: This attack goes directly to the heart of Romney’s presidential campaign. The Republican nominee has based his entire on argument on the claim that—by dint of his business experience—he is uniquely qualified to lead the country into a more robust recovery. Indeed, private sector experience has totemic properties in Romney’s narrative; Obama is a failure because he’s “ never met a payroll ” and “doesn’t understand the economy,” while Romney sees business as the most important qualification a president can have. But, with a quote from Romney’s gubernatorial campaign—“I know how jobs are created”—the Obama campaign raises a basic question: When Romney ran for governor of Massachusetts he used his business experience as proof he could create jobs for Massachusetts, instead, he led the state to the bottom of the pack for job creation. Now, running for president...

The Insane Scenario Unfolding Before Our Eyes

(Wikipedia)
As expected, Mitt Romney has had a field day with today’s dismal jobs report. In an interview with CNBC, the Republican nominee went to town on President Obama. Here are a few choice quotes: “The President’s policies and his handling of the economy have been dealt a harsh indictment today.” “The President is always quick to find someone to blame.” He cites Bush, Congress, ATM machines. “But the truth is, the No. 1 job of the president is to get people back to work.” “He’s not up to the task. He’s over his head.” It’s not hard to imagine the Obama campaign’s response to this—“Not only is your party responsible for the economic crisis, but when President Obama tried to contain the damage, you moved to obstruct him at every possible opportunity.” Depending on where you stand, this is either whining or an important piece of context. I think it’s a little bit of both. There’s no question that the Obama made mistakes with his handling of the economic crisis. His initial bid for stimulus...

Who Cares About Elizabeth Warren's Heritage Controversy? No One.

For the last month, Elizabeth Warren has been stuck in controversy over her Native American heritage, specifically the fact that she received benefits for it while at Harvard. Republican Scott Brown has made this a major campaign issue, using it to assail Warren’s integrity and ability to honestly serve the people of Massachusetts. At The Washington Post , David Fahrenthold and Chris Cillizza adopt this frame, and present the controversy as a real problem for Warren’s Senate bid: The episode could have been a minor nuisance for the campaign. In a race in which the economy, jobs and debt are the overriding issues, it’s unlikely that whether Warren is Native American would matter all that much to voters. But Warren has turned what could have been a small problem into a major story line by not coming out with everything she knew about the episode from the start. There’s a big problem with this. A huge problem, in fact. According to all available polling, voters simply don’t care about...

Today in Nontroversies

Despite the fact that most Democrats are enthusiastic about the Obama campaign’s attacks on Bain Capital, the news media has run with the “narrative” that Democrats are bucking the Obama message in favor of more conciliatory rhetoric toward private equity. According to CNN , the latest Democrat to go off the reservation is Bill Clinton, who praised Romney’s business record in a press conference yesterday: “I don’t think that we ought to get into the position where we say ’This is bad work. This is good work.” And: ”I think the real issue ought to be, what has Gov. Romney advocated in the campaign that he will do as president? What has President Obama done and what does he propose to do? How do these things stack up against each other?" CNN reported this as a blow to President Obama, but is that actually the case? Here is what Obama said about Bain in a widely cited press conference last week: [I]f your main argument for how to grow the economy is, “I knew how to make a lot of money...

Sad Billionaires are Sad

(Jason Scott Jones •ジェイーエスージェ/Flickr)
In another hard-hitting investiation, POLITICO reports that right-wing billionaires are shocked— shocked!— that people are opposed to their lavish support for politicians who promise to slash services and cut taxes for said billionaires. I mean, who knew that people would have a problem with plutocratic efforts to take the country back to the Gilded Age?: In their view, cutting a million-dollar check to try to sway the presidential race should be just another way to do their part for democracy, not a fast-track to the front page. And now some are pushing back hard against the attention, asking: Why us? “This idea of giving public beatings has been around for a long time,” said Frank VanderSloot, a wealthy Idaho businessman who donated $1 million in corporate cash to the super PAC supporting Mitt Romney and says he’s raised between $2 million and $5 million for the Romney campaign. In addition to bankrolling Romney, Vandersloot also donates money to various anti-gay causes . Turns out...

Oh, the Humanity!

(Recuerdos de Pandora/Flickr)
For the past two years, there has been a pattern to the country’s job growth: the economy speeds up in the winter, cruises through the spring, and slows down as summer approaches. For 2012, it seems that we’re on track for the same ride. The strong gains of January and February gave way to the moderate gains of March and April, which have completely dissipated with the latest jobs report . In May, the economy created 69,000 jobs, and unemployment rose slightly to 8.2 percent. This bleak picture becomes much worse when you include revisions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics revised March job growth from 154,000 to 143,000, and April growth from 115,000 to 77,000. Altogether then, the economy grew by a scant 20,000 jobs in May. On Twitter yesterday, New York Times writer David Leonhardt said that it would be “disappointing” to see job growth below 150,000. This jobs report is beyond disappointing—it’s a disaster. Obviously, this has political implications, and none of them are good for...

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