Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Perverse Incentive Watch

Okay, it's mostly funny that Ted Cruz showed up at a meeting of Senate conservatives with a poll he himself commissioned that "shows" why his shutdown strategy is a brilliant success, especially since his poll showed that more people blame Republicans for the shutdown.

But if we want to stop giggling (Alex Seitz-Wald: I only trust polls commissioned by Louie Gohmert.) for a minute at the possibility that his colleagues might actually believe anything they saw in that poll...

The detail I'd note about it is that Cruz -- presumably his campaign committee -- paid for the poll. Which means that his pollster is profiting from the shutdown. And I'm sure this isn't an isolated instance. We also know that people have been running ads on this fight since August; that means in most cases money to people who make the ads (the exception would be in-house media people), and perhaps to people who place the ads; it also means revenue to whoever ran the ads.

Then there's how Cruz got the money to commission the poll: I'm sure his fauxlibuster was great for generating campaign contributions. Indeed: I'm sure that everyone involved, at least everyone who is getting increased visibility, is cleaning up. That's both politicians and organizations.

I haven't looked up any numbers (other than Plain Blog traffic, which is at more or less twice the normal pace), but I'm pretty confident that ratings are way up at Fox News (and MSNBC) and the rest of the political mass media.

All of which is to recognize that for most of politics-as-an-industry, the shutdown/debt limit fight is excellent business. At least, if you don't count government employees and those dependent on the government functioning properly as part of politics-as-an-industry.

Is all of that a significant cause of the shutdown and possible debt limit disaster? I don't know! But I do know that there's a direct financial incentive for a lot of people to generate high-visibility partisan fights. And people often react to direct financial incentives.

It certainly isn't the whole story. It may well be a part of it.


  1. Jesus. That's the information they're using to make their decisions? Sadly, that explains a lot.

  2. I wonder what Rush Limbaugh's net worth was in 2005 versus his net worth today? If he does in fact make obscene amounts more money when a Democrat is President, how does he reconcile that with his purported political beliefs? I'd love an inside look at how his media empire thinks about that problem.

  3. I get a number of emails a day soliciting for contributions based on the shutdown/debt ceiling politics, from the non-extremist right wing side. Sorry, I won't play that game, even though it was the other side that forced this. It feeds everybody's addictions.

    1. I get those emails from the Democratic side; as well. Everybody's using this 'crisis' to raise money. Seems like there's money sloshing around everywhere except the US Treasury.

    2. I like what you say, or least my (possibly incorrect) interpretation. If you mean that you will support politicians only when they do something right and constructive, and won't support them based on fearmongering, I support this idea! Three cheers! I really do hope I've understood correctly.

  4. Its not far from the insight in this post to a complete disintegration of political journalism as we knew it. Are we really only seven days away from a shutdown? Or have the parties had a deal for a week (several weeks?) and are milking the chaos for all its worth?

    How could anyone outside the inner sanctum know? This would be exactly the kind of conspiracy that wouldn't age well if it made it past the inner gates of the empire.

    In sum, then, we either are or we are not on the precipice of a crisis, but either way, make sure you give generously now.

    Good for the professionals, bad for the profession all the way around, it seems to me.

    1. Seven days away from a...default, of course...

      (shoddy providers of inside information!)


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