Sunday, September 16, 2012

L'Shana Tovah (and Housekeeping)

I won't be around the next couple of days, with Rosh Hashanah beginning tonight. I may be back Tuesday night, but you can definitely expect things to be running normally on Wednesday.

In the meantime, my Salon column this weekend was about why Republicans turned to press-bashing this week; I argued that it had to do with how little they have in terms of policy positions and how little room Mitt Romney has between what's popular among swing voters and among the people with the loudest voices among Republicans.  And then there's also my article in the current WaMo looking at what a Romney administration might look like.

So a Shana Tovah to all who are celebrating and observing the holiday, and I'll be back in a bit.


  1. L'Shana Tovah to you too, JB. Can't wait to read your post about the 47% of Americans about which Romney couldn't give shit.

  2. Eric went there. That video is totally appalling. Not Romney; I trust as a religious fellow there's a good chance Romney realizes the human cost of his wealth accumulation. Its the crowd. The room. The coin of the realm.

    Romney said that most (non-taxpayers) are moochers. Of course they are! The great John Milton once said "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation". If Milton had lived several hundred years later, in the era of big government, he might have said "The mass of men lead lives of blatant mooching".

    There must have been a time - and seriously, don't correct me if I'm wrong - where conservatism was steeped in noblesse oblige, where movers and shakers understood that most folks neither move nor shake, and thus wealth creating entrepreneurs had an obligation to spread said wealth.

    Now we get that deep-pocketed audience at Romney's fund-raiser, steeped no doubt in Ayn Rand ideology, haters all.

    Fucking shit. Moochers, Mitt's rich pukesuckers? Write it down, that's a good sign post for the fabric of society ripped asunder.

    1. Henry David Thoreau (typo!)

    2. Milton said "they also serve who only stand and wait," referring, I think, to the people carrying the cocktails and canapes to rich people milling around at a $50K/plate fundraiser.

  3. purusha - you're right of course, it was Thoreau, illustrating again the dangers of stream of consciousness back here, particularly when you're all hepped up and ranting.

    Stepping back a bit - this may present a tremendous opportunity for Team Obama, though I suspect they will misplay it. They will probably either leave it alone, out of excess liberal politeness, or they will attack Romney, also a mistake imo.

    I'd guess I'm like a lot of Americans who, while not fooled by Laffer effects at prevailing tax rates, still feel there's something benevolent about the free flow of capital. We are generally uncomfortable with confiscatory tax rates in part for fairness but also because "govt doesn't create jobs" etc.

    Then you watch that video and realize that the way for a Republican nominee to extract massive donations from the well-heeled rentier class - strangers to Romney, no less - is to make fun of poor people?

    Give those bastards the shiv.

    1. I don't know that he was making fun of them, he was just saying what he believes: that "they" (i.e., minorities) are useless, lazy parasites. This is basically the core of the Republican ideology. It has no basis in reality, of course, most government recipients being white, and the rich benefiting from govt at least as much as the poor. It is a fantasy, but one animates the right.

  4. Happy 5773, Jonathan.

    As the holiday winds down, I hope you don't mind me taking advantage of the open thread to pose a question. It comes from something in Politico today, but the question has been on my mind for awhile.

    - - - - - - - - - - -

    Jonathan Martin:

    Unemployment is over 8 percent. Nearly 60 percent of Americans, according to a new poll, believe the country is on the wrong track. The number of people on food stamps is at a historic high and the median net worth of American families is at a 20-year low.

    If it was true that winning elections is mostly a matter of numbers — as some political scientists and campaign operatives like to argue — Barack Obama’s reelection as president should be close to a mathematical impossibility. For much of this presidential election cycle, Republicans were counting on precisely this.

    - - - - - - - - - - -

    I think Martin is mischaracterizing the actual views of political science here, but my question goes to the '60% wrong track' factoid mentioned in the piece.

    When used in the media, this metric seems always used in a knee-jerk fashion to say that the President is in trouble, the electorate will want a change "to get back on the right track". Very serious media people make very serious announcements and write very serious opinion pieces suggesting that Obama must have failed in his first term, look at that "wrong track" number.

    I'm wondering how much of that 60% are people that blame GW Bush and his policies that got the country in a hole, and today's Congressional Republicans that refuse to let Obama put his own policies (American Jobs Act for one) into place.

    Like there were people polling against the ACA because it wasn't single-payer/didn't go far enough.. does Obama's continued lead in the polls suggest that a number of people feel the country is on the wrong track, but not holding the President responsible for it?

    1. John Sides read the same thing.

    2. JS,
      One reading of contrasting poll results like 60% wrong track/46% voting for the other guy could be that they are blaming Bush. However, there's a few more possibilities.
      -sample. Oftentimes, they'll report the wrong track number amongst the entire sample, and not the RV or LVs they do for the election poll. Depends on the firm, but something to look for.
      -don't like the other guy even more. There could be a number of people out there who really think Obama is terrible....but Romney would be even worse.

      However, there are some things saving the "wrong track" measure as useful, although depending on your perspective, they might be damning it as well. When I think about the right track/wrong track question, I can't help but wonder where it comes in the survey. Question order can have large effects; I have no evidence that right track/wrong track has any effect on or is affected by other questions, but it does SEEM like the type of question that could play either role. That said, wrong track might be the type of question where you can get people to "admit" their "true" feelings. What I mean is that, after 6 decades of reporting presidential approval, one of the reasons why it has become more polarized by party MIGHT BE (never seen concrete evidence of this) that partisans realize that approval will be used for/against their/the other side's guy. In other words, disapproving of your president is "bad form." RT/WT might avoid some of that--"well, everyone realizes things suck, so I'm not attacking my guy, I'm just admitting the obvious." So, from that perspective, RT/WT is the better measure of whether people are happy.

      On the other hand, the question itself is very prone to semantic parsing, as you note. One respondent could think "Bush did it;" another could think "the slow decline of Western civilization;" another could think it's getting better but not yet good (which SHOULD be right track, semantically, but they don't feel like its appropriate to give the "good" answer).

      All this is a heck of a lot of angels dancing on the head of a pin, though. For what it's worth, 60% wrong track is far from the worst its been. Looking back, I see a 91% wrong track in October 2008; it was 84% wrong track at the election next month, and McCain did a lot better than 16% of the vote. It's also been much better; the lowest I see is from Clinton's last week in office at 28% wrong track. (I also particularly like how Gallup was in the field with this from Sept 7-10 in 2001, where 55% said wrong track. Next week, yep, 36% wrong track.)

  5. I'd also just say that political scientists focus on the trends of the economy in the election year not the overall status of the economy on election day as the key determinant of if a party retains the White House or the challenger wins. So while the overall state of the economy might not be good, the trend in 2012 is okay (the economy is growing, not shrinking, inflation is very low and jobs are being gained not lost) meaning the incumbent is not doomed. Furthermore, you want to look at a variety of economic figures, not just unemployment or the monthly jobs numbers. For example, real income for the average household this year has gone up quite a bit, this gives you a different picture than how much the monthly jobs number is above or below 150k in August. You see these contradictions in a lot of economic data, reporters almost always cover a decline in home values as being bad, but they are good if you are a first time home buyer. A counter example might be 2000 where the state of the economy overall was quite good, but the trend in 2000 was not good, we went into a recession in 2001 remember? So Gore lost "despite" really low inflation and unemployment.

    With regards to "right track, wrong track" I would say that this is a very vague question that doesn't necessarily tell us anything. JB likes to point out that most people tend to regard "the deficit" as not being "the difference between federal inlays and outlays" (which is the technical definition) but rather "bad economic stuff," and this is probably true. The fact that people respond to a pollster with an indication support for "the country is on the wrong track" doesn't mean that people will vote against Obama. I kinda agree with the "wrong track" statement but think its because of the House GOP, if Obama gets reelected and the Dem's take back the house, that's my idea of "right track." The idea that "wrong track" should automatically equal "vote against the incumbent" is a reporter's prejudice not necessarily how the world works.


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