Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Read Stuff, You Should

Happy Birthday to Mark Hamill, 61. His performance in the first movie is highly underrated, for some reason; he's excellent, in my view. And fine in the other two, too.

The good stuff:

1. Whether you like a policy or not could depend on whether it's described as a Republican (or Democratic) plan. John Sides reports.

2. Good polling overview, focused on the Gallup/Rassmussen issue, from Mark Blumenthal.

3. Brendan Nyhan is right about feel-good phony rhetoric from Barack Obama.

4. I suppose I'll link to Abby Rapoport on non-partisan solutions to administering elections, although my usual anti-Goo Goo instinct is to pretty much oppose that sort of thing.

5. Sabl's Law appears to be safe for now.

6. And no one should care about Bud Selig; the real question was how Sean Forman would handle the Melkman "problem," and of course he's being sensible about it.


  1. On the Sabl's law post:

    I would like to see polling that probes how voter assign economic responsibility on the 'are you better off,' or 'is the nation better off' questions. Because I have the sense that most people feel the nation's better off but for Congress. And that seems to be reflected in Congress's low approval rating. In other words, Obama's getting a pass from many voters on the slow recovery because 1) they blame the Bush administration for causing the problems and 2) they blame Congress for not working together to help resolve the problems.

    But my theory's based on the notion that voters view of culpability are most reflected in approval ratings.

  2. If Obama wants to break the fever, he needs to campaign as a democrat and for house seats.

    Or at least throw money their way.

  3. I think Nyhan's attempted debunk of Obama's 'break the fever' rhetoric is poorly argued on several counts: 1) as Nyhan acknowledges, Obama will have major leverage re the fiscal cliff if he wins. Breaking the fever is about results, not feelings. 2) As he also acknowledges, Clinton compromised successfully with the GOP after reelection. This too was about leverage, not good feeling, and so is not negated by the subsequent impeachment proceedings. Indeed, if Clinton had not handed the GOP that sword to gore him (Lewinsky), relations btwn the parties may have developed somewhat differently. 3) Obama is not proposing to change public opinion from the bully pulpit. He's promising to marshal public opinion that's already on his side, i.e., on a "balanced" approach to deficit reduction that includes tax hikes on the wealthy. Bludgeoning the GOP with their unpopular opinions has already worked to a limited degree in the payroll tax cut and student loan rate battles and should work well in tandem with Obama's fiscal cliff leverage (the Bush tax cut expiration and the sequestration cuts to defense).

    I think that what Obama is saying is that he's learned that standing up to the GOP works better than trying to mollify them, and that he's going to use the relative popularity of his core positions (change comes from you) to maximize the leverage afforded by the fiscal cliff. Must blog this..

    1. That's a much more defensible explanation of how change will occur and gridlock will dissipate. But it's also not the argument Obama has seemed to be making. The "break the fever" rhetoric clearly implies something like his winning will finally convince previously irrational/pathological opposition to mollify/come to their senses. His winning will very likely not do that.

    2. Hold on ASP, Nyhan does not acknowledge "Obama will have major leverage re the fiscal cliff if he wins." Rather, he states that "while Obama will have increased leverage in the upcoming “fiscal cliff” scenario, there’s little reason to think the upward trend in legislative polarization will relent any time soon." Those are two very different things.

      Nevertheless, I agree that leverage is a key aspect. To that end, should Obama win, the House remain held by the GOP and the Senate held - although more slimly - by the Dems, then where is the leverage in the situation where inaction will cause outcomes neither side prefers? That's the question.

      Let's posit that the GOP prefers no taxes be increased (47% thinking aside) on anyone.

      Let's also posit that the Dems prefer taxes not be raised on the lower and middle income earners (Sen. Murray's claims aside), especially in a manner that had them paying in more of the proportional new dollars than the top earners.

      So then the question becomes who can use the leverage of the fiscal cliff to the best effect? Which side is more willing to accept the downsides in order to get the upsides?

      In my view, if it weren't for the payroll tax, the Dems might be able to prevail by allowing all the 2001/2003 tax cuts to expire and then use the political leverage of higher taxes against the GOP to negotiate a deal to maybe walk half the upper income rates back while getting the lower end side taken care of.

      But with the payroll tax cut helping the lower income people the most, I think that flips the leverage balance.

  4. Nyhan's analysis seems a bit trite to me. I haveno doubt that republican obstruction will remain, but I no idea what Obama's alternative in the election.

  5. Really, JB? You're not going to pile on vis-a-vis airplane windows?

    1. My guess is that this is a "the trees are the right height" kind of thing. It reminds me of Homer Simpson - when Lisa cited the aphorism "better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt" Homer thinks "Better say something or they'll think I'm stupid." I guess the other possibility is that he was so busy trying to think of creative uses of tuna fish while he and Ann were putting themselves through school with nothing but his Dad's American Motors stock to live on, he never saw Goldfinger.

    2. I'm with Fallows and Drum...it's a nothing.

    3. Oh, I know, it's totally nothing. It's just fun.

  6. Re: #3
    Andrew Sullivan's Newsweek cover story is a prime journalistic example: he's alternated between enthusiastically and guardedly buying Obama's "fever-breaking" theory (now also being spread by prominent members of Congress, like Schumer, etc.). I tend to think the only way you'll see the fever break is if the economy really takes off, which for example, moderated things somewhat (*only* somewhat) for Clinton. Otherwise, I think the GOP changing will simply require some degree of generational change-over, meaning a further 4-8 years.

    1. I keep wondering whether Obama/Reid/Pelosi, if they retain/gain power, will finally use term 2 to get some institutional reform through Congress. I can see, to some extent, why none of them publicly tout this now to either mass voters or insider-y media audiences, but clearly that's the only thing that will truly disrupt gridlock in the short term, not some unprecedentedly accelerated political-cultural transformation of a political party.

    2. It's pretty clear that the GOP base would write off a Romney defeat as the result of his not being conservative enough and not attacking the president enough. I don't think the fever is going to break until such time as they lose the House, and control none of the three branches.

    3. Hate to break the bad news to you, but the R's are likely to control the US House of Representatives for the next generation, if they want it. That precludes any big lefty movement.

      Check the map, and you'll observe that the Left has jailed themselves up in their urban bantustans, and pissed all over the Blue Dogs. The electorate seemed to recognize all that in 2010, and threw the Left out of House leadership, after only 4 years. And it had nothing to do with the electorate's love for the R's, because the electorate has no special feelings for them either.

      This was a straight-up rejection of the Left, and you can bet Nan-Nan will be a topic of discussion in local congressional elections for every one of the elections over this coming generation. I wouldn't expect the hard Left is going to get much play in the dozens of districts from which they were recently ejected. And if they posture Blue Dog... what do you think their opponents are going to be saying? Exactly.

      The upcoming election seems set to affirm the above analysis. An Obama reelection will only spur that process on even further, as 2014 will likely become one of the bloodiest offyear lame duck elections in US history.

      This is sort of a good news, bad news election, as most "meh" status quo elections are.


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