Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

The One In Which I Hire the New York Times to Write for Me.

In my last post I said I had an idea about Obama’s “socialist” problem by which I mean, the view that he’s left-wing even though he’s actually centrist [also American conservatives really don’t know what “socialist” means even if it hit them in the face with a baseball bat which would then shatter because socialists can’t produce high quality goods]. <Rant off>

Anyway, David Brooks has written it for me and I’ll just hand you over to him: “Obama’s Very Good Week”.


And for Obama’s “black” problem, Ishmael Reed: “What Progressives Don’t Understand About Obama”.



Categories: Politics, United States

Good Cop / Bad Cop in Britain’s Coalition

The power-sharing that goes on between Number Ten and the Treasury is now working in the interests of both, to a much greater degree than it did under Blair. The split is actually Humean to the core. Clegg and Cameron represent fairness, decency and the common good; Osborne represents objectivity, facts and economics. The former want a better world, but know little of its reality. The latter knows about its reality, but doesn’t care what happens to it. Osborne unleashes trolleys down hills, while the rest – and the Lib Dems in particular – are tasked with pulling leavers, pushing fat people off bridges and diving in front of the odd trolley themselves, all in the hope that this minimises the suffering.

Read the rest.

Categories: Politics, United Kingdom Tags:

“Socialist” Obama is Big Business for conservatives

As you can see I’ve been working hard on writing newspaper-type headlines.


via Frum Forum, the Daily Beast reports that there have been 46 anti-Obama books published since he was inaugurated 2 years ago (at this point Bush had 5 and Clinton, 11). And they’ve got some ridiculous names:

I started wondering how many Obama attack books had been published when I saw David Limbaugh’s Crimes Against Liberty: An Indictment of Barack Obama at a bookstore a few weeks ago—at this point the titles all blur together in a manic mad-lib, always accusing Obama of something close to war-crimes against the American people.  With the help of research assistant Nicholas Anderson, I compiled a full list of anti-Obama books available on Among the choice titles:

The Manchurian President: Barack Obama’s Ties to Communists, Socialists and other Anti-American Extremists; Barack Obama’s Plan to Socialize America and Destroy Capitalism; Obama’s Change: Communism in America; To Save America: Stopping Obama’s Secular Socialist Machine; How Barack Obama is Destroying the Military and Endangering Our Security; Obama: The Postmodern Coup—Making of a Manchurian Candidate; Trickle Up Poverty: Stopping Obama’s Attack on Our Borders, Economy and Security; The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration’s War on America; and my favorite: Whiny Little Bitch: The Excuse Filled Presidency of Barack Obama.

I think it’s ironic that it’s the growth-killing socialist who’s proving such a gold mine for conservatives authors. Also, I’ve always wondered, do they really believe the things they’re saying or do they know their peddling adulterated horse-piss. The former means they’re well-meaning idiots, while the latter means they’re just evil; whipping gullible people into irrational hate and fear while raking in money.

Categories: Politics, United States Tags: ,

President Sarah Palin

The Elephant Parade  

(Photo: (L-R) Mark Wilson/Getty Images; Alex Wong/Getty Images; Ethan Miller/Getty Images; Massoud Hossaini/AFP/Getty Images; Spencer Platt/Getty Images; Steve Pope/Getty Images; Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images)


John Heilemann thinks so in an article that could be subtitled “How to get elected United States President”:

Firstly, she’ll put her hat in the ring; her ambition having won over her intelligence. Then she’ll overwhelm the Republican field [picture] first with the Tea Party’s backing:

All those guys they could try and turn it up and have the fervor, but voters are gonna read through it,” says Dowd. “It’s just not authentic to them, because they’ve been part of the Washington scene or taking part in state politics, where they cut deals and made compromises—which is part of governing but lethal in this environment.”

On this reading, the tea party and its populist brethren seem likely to emerge as the new Christian right, only more powerful—not merely exercising an effective veto over any nominee but altering the underlying dynamics of the race. “There will be two simultaneous primaries: a mainstream-conservative primary and a primary in the anti-Establishment wing of the party,” says John Weaver, McCain’s guru in 2000 and the early part of his run in 2008. “And then there’ll be a playoff down the road between the winners of the two.”

The sequencing of primary elections does its bit:

Beyond the intensity of her grassroots following, Palin would bring to the race two other significant advantages, the first being the calendar. That she would be the prohibitive favorite in Iowa, where the caucuses are dominated by Evangelical voters, is considered a given by most strategists. But, in fact, all of the first four states might provide fertile ground for Palin. “Iowa and New Hampshire both are places in which the tea party has manifested itself,” observes Dowd. “In South Carolina, [firebrand Senator] Jim DeMint has already shown that he’s a force to be reckoned with. And Nevada’s nominated Sharron Angle.”

then her unconventional, even insurgent campaigning and the media’s reaction to her every 140 characters takes its toll:

Palin’s second advantage, nearly incalculable in its scale and implications, is her ability simultaneously to drive and saturate the electronic media, new and old—the way that cable chronicles her every twitch, that with a trifling tweet she often earns 24 hours of breathless nonstop coverage. “It’ll be something that we’ve never seen before,” says John Weaver. “Obama wasn’t like that until the general election.”

How will the Establishment candidates cope with all of this? “The first thing it does is completely freaks them out,” says McKinnon. “And the hard part is, it’s going to be difficult for them to go after her, because she’s so popular [within the party]”—and also because she’s likely to be the only woman in a large field of men. “If you have somebody who can operate the way she does,” adds another strategist, “which is totally outside of political convention, where she does not engage with the free press, she does not answer questions when she speaks, her communication is done in 140-character bursts on Twitter or on a Facebook post, her ability to have the nine other people who are running afraid to disagree with her is problematic, right? It forces a guy like Pawlenty to say things that are obviously not true, like ‘Sarah Palin of course is prepared to be president!’ ”

In truth, what the Establishment candidates are likely to do is focus on their own bracket—on emerging as the Palin alternative around which the non-tea-party elements of the GOP coalesce. “If you’re a traditional candidate, you have to run a traditional campaign,” counsels Castellanos. “There will be an opportunity to seize that mantle, the Establishment, Reaganesque, visionary Republican mantle. My advice would be, don’t run in Sarah Palin’s primary. Go win your primary.”

In July (check me out), I tweeted:

Palin GOP

“I still think this is true although now, I’d add that the problem for more mainstream Republicans would be same as what is affecting the Democrats coming up to the November elections; uber-motivated right-wingers whose turnout will swamp your moderate vote. The same effect aiding the Republicans now- and which they’re cheering- will bite them in the behind going forward.

If that happens, I doubt she’ll win mainly because even though I have my criticisms about them, I don’t think Americans are stupid, nor enjoy self-harm. However, Heilemann thinks up a scenario in which New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg gets into the race based on his appeal to moderate Republicans (“economic competence and financial acumen”) and liberal social stances. This will occur especially if the economy doesn’t pick up soon:

But there is a third scenario, one that involves a more granular kind of analysis-cum-speculation. By the accounts of strategists in both parties, Bloomberg—especially with the help of his billions—would stand a reasonable chance of carrying New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Florida, and California. Combine that with a strong-enough showing in a few other places in the industrial Northeast to deny Obama those states, and with Palin holding the fire-engine-red states of the South, and the president might find himself short of the 270 electoral votes necessary to win.

Assuming you still remember the basics from American Government 101, you know what would happen next: The election would be thrown to the House of Representatives—which, after November 2, is likely to be controlled by the Republicans. The result: Hello, President Palin!

Again brrrrrrrrrr.

NB: Today, Palin says she’ll run in 2012, “if there’s nobody else to do it”. Which I think means “If I don’t like any of the candidates, then I’ll run”. Or she knows that everyone will be dead then.

Electing many officials does not “The Greatest Democracy” make

I had a lecture on this literally yesterday.

Matthew Yglesias:

Via Adam Serwer, Radley Balko makes the case that elected judges lead to bad criminal justice policy:

How to reverse or ameliorate the damage already done is a debate we’ll be having for decades. But there is one change that could at least stop the bleeding: less democracy. As New York Times reporter Adam Liptak pointed out in a 2008 article, America’s soaring incarceration rate may be largely due to the fact that we have one of the most politicized criminal justice systems in the developed world. In most states, judges and prosecutors are elected, making them more susceptible to slogan-based crime policy and an electorate driven by often irrational fear. While the crime rate has fallen dramatically since the early 1990s, polls consistently show that the public still thinks crime is getting worse.

I agree with that, but as I’ve said before I think there’s a much broader issue of too many elected officials in America. And I don’t think this should be understood as a call for “less democracy.” The United Kingdom is a democracy. But a resident of London votes for a borough councillor, a member of the London Assembly, a mayor of the city, a member of parliament, and a member of the European parliament. A resident of New York City votes for a city council member, a mayor, a public advocate, a city comptroller, a district attorney, a state assembly member, a state senator, a governor, a lieutenant governor, a state comptroller, a state attorney general, a member of the US house, two US Senators, and the President. Then on top of all that he votes for judges! [My emphasis].

And you have to ask yourself—is all that voting better described as “more democracy” or as “people voting in a lot of elections they’re not realistically going to know anything about”? I’m going to take what’s behind door number two. There’s no point in holding elections that just consist of ignorance punctuated by the odd burst of demagoguery.

Elections as stimulus

The amount of money in American elections is mind-boggling:

House and Senate candidates have already shattered fundraising records for a midterm election and are on their way to surpassing $2 billion in spending for the first time, according to new campaign finance data. To put it another way: That’s the equivalent of about $4 million for every congressional seat up for grabs this year.

Ezra Klein shows how this can help the economy:

Dan Gross wants to see us holding elections every year, or maybe every two years. But it’s not because of the salutary effect they have on democracy. It’s because of the stimulative effect they have on the economy:

Every four years, when Michael Bloomberg runs for Mayor, the Big Apple is transformed into a winter wonderland where it’s Christmas all year round — at least for the consultants, ad salespeople, canvassers, caterers, and hangers-on whom the mayor employs. In 2009, Bloomberg injected $102 million into the city’s economy in order to win a third four-year term for a job that pays him only $1 per year.

No wonder the city’s leaders decided to overturn the law limiting a mayor to two terms. Having Bloomberg run for re-election is like staging a Super Bowl, NBA All-Star game, and World Series.

Meg Whitman is doing Bloomberg one better. In her bid to replace Arnold Schwarzenegger as California’s governor, the former EBay CEO has already plowed $140 million into the Golden State’s stricken economy. One can only hazard a guess as to how much higher California’s unemployment rate (12.4 percent in September) would be without Whitman.

In Connecticut, where I live, another CEO is having an even greater proportional impact. Former WWE CEO Linda McMahon through mid-October had spent more than $41 million of her own money on a Senate campaign — about $25 for every voting age adult in the state. McMahon is single-handedly boosting Connecticut’s office and retail vacancy rates by renting out storefronts, and has saturated the airwaves with ads the way Starbucks has saturated Seattle.

Self-funders are only part of the equation. With political passions running high in recent years, millions of citizens have made small donations. Sharron Angle, who is challenging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, raised a stunning $14 million in the third quarter, mostly from small donors.

Then there’s corporate money. In the past two years, America’s CEOs have become a bunch of Scrooge McDucks. Unwilling to hire and slow to boost dividends, they hoard cash and loosen purse strings only for overseas expansion (or CEO compensation). But now that it’s easier to make big donations without having to disclose them, corporations are getting involved in politics in a big way. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has hit up members to fund tens of millions of dollars in campaign spending. Bush adviser Karl Rove, eager to get back into the game, set up American Crossroads, which has raised tens of millions of dollars from corporations and other donors.

Surely some economist somewhere has done a study investigating whether high-cost elections stimulate local economies, right? It seems like a perfect natural experiment.

Bicameral legislatures and budget deficits

John Sides:

Downsizing Legislatures

Monkey Cage reader Thomas Hurst sends me this Wall Street Journal article on state legislatures that are considering the cost effectiveness of unicameralism. He asks: what effects does bi- vs. unicameralism have?

Here’s a little research (gated, I’m afraid) by William Heller:

In this study I look at the relationship between bicameralism and government budget deficits. The more actors there are who can kill legislation or influence its content, the more deals must be cut to pass a budget. Bicameralism sets up a bilateral veto game between legislative chambers, which leads to higher government budget deficits, all else constant. Since it is easier to cut deals to raise spending than to raise taxes, the need to cut deals across the chambers of a bicameral legislature generally leads to higher spending and, hence, higher deficits. I test this hypothesis on a sample of deficits from 17 countries, from 1965 to 1990.

Here also is a review essay on (gated) by Heller.

In this working paper (pdf), Michael Cutrone and Nolan McCarty review the formal modeling and evidence on bicameralism and conclude:

bq, In this essay, we have considered a number of arguments in favor of bicameralism as an organizing principal for modern legislatures. When viewed through the tools of contemporary legislative analysis – spatial, multilateral bargaining, and informational models – the case for bicameralism seems less than overwhelming. Even in models where bicameralism might have an effect, we find that the necessary conditions for such an effect are empirically rare. Further, much of the empirical evidence of the policy effects bicameralism is either weak or attributable to either malapportionment or supermajoritarianism, outcomes that could theoretically be produced in unicameral legislatures.

If readers know of any other research, please discuss in comments.

True bicameralism (unlike Britain’s) doesn’t work simply because it makes policymaking very difficult. It leads to negotiated, watered down policies which are usually sub-optimal.