Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

A new podcast about the election! You bet!

We discuss:

  • Why pundits hate Nate Silver
  • Why issues don’t end up mattering
  • Ballot initiatives
  • What will happen if/when Obama wins
  • Our picks
[audio http://dl.dropbox.com/u/14175885/Podcast9.mp3]

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Blind, partisan hatred has become an easy way to describe the entire Republican party. The joke goes that if Obama supports puppies and rainbows, the GOP opposes it. So reflexive is the anti-Obama instinct among them, that for whatever X he proposes, they simply must adopt not-X. It’s a simplistic analysis, but… it’s true almost all the time, isn’t it?

Case in point; the Lord’s Resistance Army now enjoys the support of the figurehead of the GOP: Rush Limbaugh. Of course, I’ve long known that Limbaugh is a fucking prick deserving no attention whatsoever. And so I will not give him a link to his site. But if I were to, you would see that he opposes Obama’s recent decision to send 100 troops into Uganda to combat the LRA. Ok, fine. Reasonable people can disagree about whether it is wise to send troops into yet another country to get involved in yet another local conflict.

But Limbaugh does not stop there. He titles his entry, “Obama invades Uganda, targets Christians.” You see, the LRA describes itself as Christian, and this therefore represents an irresistible opportunity for Limbaugh to cast this as an example of Obama – the secret Muslim – getting involved in Africa to target Christians. Because Obama, after all, represents a threat to the real American way of life. It’s a Holy War, and Obama wants the Christians to lose.

Limbaugh further reads LRA propaganda about their alleged goals of bringing peace and security to Uganda. He ignores the fact that:

They force abducted children to become soldiers and kill their parents.

They slaughter hundreds of civilians, sparing not the men, women, or children.

They force children soldiers to murder other children who try to escape.

Again, reasonable people can disagree over whether the United States should get involved. But for Limbaugh to take the LRA’s side, ignore their depraved mass murders, and cast this as an example of Obama attacking Christians is a new low, even for Limbaugh. Fuck him. But when your reflexive Obama-hatred motivates every political position you take, this is the logical conclusion.

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An interesting story caught my attention today. McClatchy reports that the Democrats are unlikely to repeal the Bush tax cuts. The whole thing is so deliciously stupid but this part really sums it up:

“Democrats in Congress are poised to play a leading role this month in thwarting their party’s effort to raise income tax rates on the wealthy.

Tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 expire at the end of this year. President Barack Obama and Democratic congressional leaders have been eager to extend the breaks for individuals who earn less than $200,000 annually and joint filers who make less than $250,000. Those who earn more would pay higher, pre-2001 rates starting next year.

However, a small but growing number of moderate Democrats are balking at boosting taxes on the rich. Many face electorates that recoil at the mention of any tax increase. Some represent areas that are loaded with wealthier taxpayers. Further, some incumbent senators who don’t face voters this fall are reluctant to increase taxes on anyone while the economy remains sluggish.

Without their support, the push to raise rates on the rich probably will fail.”

This is the kind of “reporting” that I hate so much. I’m surprised it didn’t run in Politico. Unless I am completely wrong (a very real possibility) my understanding of the current situation is this: the tax cuts signed into law by Bush – the ones that overwhelmingly went to the very richest Americans and heavily contributed to our current debt situation – are set to expire at the end of the year. The reason this will happen is because the Republicans used reconciliation to pass the tax cuts because they didn’t have enough votes to pass the law the original way (ironically, this is the same tactic the Democrats ultimately used to pass the health care law). So an increase in tax rates is the default scenario.

This means that all the Democrats have to do to let the cuts expire is… nothing. Now, ideally, they would like to extend the tax cuts for all but the top few percent in income, which would require passing a new law and running into new difficulties. But still, extending the massive tax cuts for the rich will require a new law no matter what. The article above makes it sound like the balking of a few “moderate” senators is enough to deny liberals what they’d like to see. But this isn’t the typical situation we’ve seen so many times so far since Obama became President. This isn’t the health care debate all over again, where a supermajority is needed to get anything done. Unless there are 60 votes to extend Bush’s tax cuts, and unless Obama signs that bill into law, the tax cuts for the wealthiest will end. And if that actually were to happen, and the Democrats led the way to keep the tax cuts in place, then this country is wayyy more fucked than I realized.

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I’ve been mulling over in my mind an exposition on why the Democrats appear so feckless to me. I’ve been thinking about this more over the past few days while I’ve witnessed an emerging narrative regarding financial regulatory reform. This new conventional wisdom is that the fraud charges against Goldman Sachs seal the deal. It says that this reform was already trending towards the likelihood of passing, and that the recent news makes it an unstoppable juggernaut, prompting both the content of the bill to get harsher towards the banks, and the pressure on Republicans to vote for it almost impossible to resist.

And I still just don’t buy it.

Now, to be sure, a financial regulation bill might still pass. It might even be a good bill. Let’s not forget that I was wrong about health care. I said it would never pass, and yet it obviously did. However, I do note – quite importantly, I think – that it passed with zero votes from Republicans in either side on Congress. It was only a clever finagling of rules that made the health care law even possible. And so with the financial reform bill, even if it does pass, and even if it does pick up a single vote from a Republican in Congress, I still think Obama and the Democrats are long, long overdue in understanding the basis and nature of their opposition. Krugman neatly sums up the key idea:

“I have a theory about the problem here. My understanding is that Obama officials have looked at the polls, which show that the public overwhelmingly favors cracking down on Wall Street; so they assumed that the GOP wouldn’t dare stand in the way. But they seem not to have learned, even now, that the right has an awesome ability to create its own reality: that Mitch McConnell et al would stand in the way of reform while claiming to be taking a stand against Wall Street.

Nor can you count on the truth to sink in with the public. The conventions of he-said-she-said reporting, among other things, make it surprisingly easy to get away with even the most obvious hypocrisy.”


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From George Packer’s 9000-word slog in the New Yorker (subscription required… blog post here) to the Economist’s “Failure to lead” article, most reviews of Obama’s first year have been shrugs at best and condemnations at worst. Packer’s piece is indicative of the genre — Obama has failed to talk to the “average American,” his biggest fault apparently.

This is all malarkey. There are legitimate reasons for souring on the Obama Administration, the most obvious case being his steady retreat on civil liberties (so much so that one wonders if he was ever out there on civil liberties). To knock him for his inability to communicate with the public is stupid, but about as stupid as thinking Obama won the election based on soaring rhetoric and thoughts of structural change in Washington. There is one reason why Obama’s disapproval is higher.

Unemployment vs. Presidential Disapproval Rating (1981-2009)

There are anomalies on this graph, sure. 9/11, Iran/Contra, Lewinsky, etc. The general trend, however, is undeniable.

My guess: when the economy improves and unemployment goes down, the same class of political journalist will be clamoring to write articles about Obama’s “comeback” and how his political team got its “mojo” back. I like Packer’s writing, but this genre of article is exactly the kind of narrative-obsessed, inside-baseball nonsense that gets held up as investigative journalism.

Yes, Obama’s approval’s in the tank. But there’s a reason they give the President four-year terms.

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It’s hard to say.

I’ve written before about the myth of the Big Speech and its overestimated effects. The summit was not quite a speech, but Obama did speak more than anyone else did, so I think it’s comparable.

Was the public watching? No.

Did any of the politicians have their minds changed by the arguments put forward? No.

It then appears that this was mostly an event explicitly for the media. Politicians – particularly the Democrats – are all cowards, of course, so I’m guessing that they’re looking for some sort of cover. They want to be able to say, “See, we tried being bipartisan but they wouldn’t let us.” I still think this is an ineffective strategy, but if the party actually does try to pass the Senate bill in the House and/or pass a reconciliation fix in the Senate, then I would consider the summit an unnecessary but quasi-success. But it all depends on the Dems finding their votes. And spines.

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Weird polling wording

I’m going to try to do a Nate Silver imitation here. There is a CNN poll making some waves today because only 44% say Obama deserves to be reelected, whereas 52% say he does not.

It sounds bad, right, but it’s weird that they asked whether he “deserves” to be reelected. Why not ask whether you approve of the job he has been doing, or whether you would vote for Obama vs. either a generic Republican or against specific people, such as Romney, Palin, etc.

Because I don’t think he “deserves” it. First, his irreversible squandering of the greatest opportunity for progressives in many decades is beyond infuriating. But frankly, I think that anyone who desires to be the most powerful person in the world, as all Presidential contenders clearly do, don’t deserve to hold that kind of power. So if I were being honest, I’d probably say “no” if I had been polled with that question.

That being the case, if you give me the choice of Obama vs. any nihilist/obstructionist/idiot Republican, then it’s not even a remotely close decision. I suspect I am not alone in such an interpretation.

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