Tuesday, April 29, 2008

McCain Provides for the Common Defense (II)

In his World Affairs Council address a month ago, McCain emphasized the urgency of taking on Islamic extremism:

 [We must] confront the transcendent challenge of our time: . . . radical Islamic terrorism. . . They alone devote all their energies and indeed their very lives to murdering innocent men, women, and children. They alone seek nuclear weapons and other tools of mass destruction not to defend themselves . . . but to use against us wherever and whenever they can. Any president who does not regard this threat as transcending all others does not deserve to sit in the White House. . .

 passive defense alone cannot protect us. We must . . . have an aggressive strategy of confronting and rooting out the terrorists wherever they seek to operate, and deny them bases in failed or failing states. . . Prevailing in this struggle will require . . . the use of . . . public diplomacy; development assistance; law enforcement training; expansion of economic opportunity; and robust intelligence capabilities. . . Our goal must be to win the "hearts and minds" of the vast majority of moderate Muslims.

 If you look at the great arc that extends from the Middle East through Central Asia and the Asian subcontinent all the way to Southeast Asia, you can see those pillars of democracy stretching across the entire expanse, from Turkey and Israel to India and Indonesia. Iraq and Afghanistan lie at the heart of that region.

Comment: McCain is right. Islamic terrorism, because it is asymmetric, is a low-cost, therefore viable, threat to our civilization. We are at war with Islamic extremism right now, and the president must, must effectively lead this war. McCain opposed Rumsfeld’s leadership, favored the surge before the word existed, and fully backs Petraeus’ counter-terrorism strategy. McCain knows we must also be serious about al Qaeda in Pakistan, the Taliban in Afghanistan, and about extremism in Iran. On the biggest issue of our time, he’s the leader we need.

McCain Provides for the Common Defense (I)

A month ago, John McCain outlined his foreign policy in a speech before the Los Angeles World Affairs Council. In one key part of the speech, McCain stressed the need for leading democracies to pull together, and added the U.S. must do a better job of listening to our friends:

 President Harry Truman once said of America, "God has created us and brought us to our present position of power and strength for some great purpose." . . . There is the powerful collective voice of the European Union, and there are the great nations of India and Japan, Australia and Brazil, South Korea and South Africa, Turkey and Israel, to name just a few of the leading democracies. There are also the increasingly powerful nations of China and Russia . . .

 We have to strengthen our global alliances as the core of a new global compact -- a League of Democracies -- that can harness the vast influence of the more than one hundred democratic nations around the world to advance our values and defend our shared interests. At the heart of this new compact must be mutual respect and trust. Recall the words of our founders in the Declaration of Independence, that we pay "decent respect to the opinions of mankind."

 [We should ensure] that the G-8, the group of eight highly industrialized states, becomes again a club of leading market democracies: it should include Brazil and India but exclude Russia. . . Western nations should make clear that the solidarity of NATO, from the Baltic to the Black Sea, is indivisible and that the organization's doors remain open to all democracies committed to the defense of freedom.

Comment: Democracy is the best form of government. It’s not something to force down someone’s throat; it’s something that evolves when a people embrace it. Democracies should offer a positive example to others, and democracies should support each other. McCain is right to favor drawing the democracies together in common purpose, and to call out by name some of the larger democracies. But why form an exclusive club that leaves out Russia or China? Since democracy is about people power, why not focus on the larger states—democratic or not—and work to draw them together in common purpose? I named those nations and called for such unity here.

Good Ol’ Days of Free Trade

"Obama graciously concedes that 'not every American job lost is due to trade'. Not every job? The true figure – according to the apolitical US Council of Economic Advisors – is that only 3% of US job losses can be attributed to 'outsourcing'."

--Dominic Lawson, The Independent (London)

Lawrence Summers, the former Clinton treasury secretary and un-PC Harvard president, is now preparing us for the end of free trade as we know it. Summers says America will find it “increasingly difficult to mobilize support for economic internationalism;” i.e., Democrats like Obama won’t have it.

Summers makes three points:

1. Developing countries increasingly export goods such as computers that the US produces on a significant scale, putting pressure on wages. At the same time, rising global prosperity increases the rewards accruing to the already [wealthy] such as [filmmakers], where the US has a comparative advantage.

2. The growth of countries such as China raises competition for energy and environmental resources, raising the price for [average] Americans.

3. Growth in the global economy encourages the development of stateless elites whose allegiance is to global economic success and their own prosperity rather than the interests of the nation where they are headquartered.

Summers says the “stateless elites,” operating in the pursuit of global economic improvements, oppose “progressive taxation, support for labor unions, strong regulation and substantial production of public goods that mitigate its adverse impacts.”

It’s pretty obviously bad for any Democrat to oppose high taxes on the rich, labor unions, strong regulation, and production of public goods. So the Obama forces indeed are going to separate themselves from free trade and its well-documented benefits.

Bad news for America. Oh, for the days of Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, even Bill Clinton and his Treasury Secretary Summers.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Engineering a better world.

What is the core difference between the two parties? Here’s an attempt from Daniel Patrick Moynihan to break down the liberal-conservative difference:

“The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.”

The "cultural wars" fought since the 1960s mean America today has shreds of our Judeo-Christian culture existing uneasily with an American popular culture driven by sex, violence, rock and roll, drugs, junk food, and whatever else Madison Avenue finds will sell goods and services. Both liberals and conservatives like and hate parts of the all-American mix, meaning liberals too have stuff they fight to hang onto. Their power position within the political equation, for example.

Why has the media become such a fiercely partisan (Democratic) force, attempting to guide our political destiny when a generation ago reporters strived for objectivity? The answer may be they are losing power, and will play rough to hang on to what they have. Real insight into this condition comes from John Podhoretz, writing in Commentary.

Podhoretz calls the “Newseum” [picture] just opened opposite Washington’s National Gallery a “news mausoleum,” because the newspaper industry is in its death throws. While the downward spiral began with television, television only extinguished weaker papers, leaving behind large, successful, profit-making news organizations in each metropolitan area that benefited greatly from their monopoly domination of the local market. The New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Sun-Times, Los Angeles Times, etc. These papers’ major profit center was classified advertising, each little line sold at full price. Now Craigslist performs the same service for free, and newspapers are going under. Says Podhoretz:

"When a monopoly begins to lose market share by as much as 10% per year, withering and fading on its own and not on account of specific competitive pressure, it is a sure sign that the structural integrity of an entire industry has been compromised. Implosion is sure to follow—and is indeed taking place in every city in every region of the country. For anyone who depends on newspapering for his livelihood, there is simply no mistaking the death rattle."

So newspapers are desperately fighting to remain relevant. According to Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein at the University of Chicago, we fight harder to hold what we have than we do to get something new:

"[Any] crisis is compounded by what psychologists call 'loss aversion.' Numerous studies have shown that humans hate losses much more than they like gains. This means that losing $1,000 hurts you about twice as much as winning $1,000 makes you feel good."

So how would Thaler and Sunstein improve matters for losers? Discussing the housing crisis, they proclaim:

"Government regulators can't change human psychology, and they shouldn't try. But they can . . . craft regulations to protect us from the people who can be our own worst enemy: ourselves."

Government helps us combat “our own worst enemy: ourselves”? Isn't this the essence of liberalism, government fixing “us” in ways we can’t fix “ourselves”? Save us from government. Save us from newspapers.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

“Sen. Clinton, Does Truth Matter?”

One has to be impressed with Clinton’s staying power. For the fourth time, she won a contest that could have knocked her out of the race had she lost. She did this before in New Hampshire, California, and Texas. Now Pennsylvania. Not so impressive—the way she wins.

In the 2002 Pennsylvania gubernatorial primary between Ed Rendell, then mayor of Philadelphia, and Bob Casey, son of the former Pennsylvania governor, Rendell won by capturing Philadelphia and its four surrounding counties by wide margins. Casey lost while winning 57 of the state’s remaining 62 counties. If Rendell's path was Obama’s strategy against Clinton yesterday, it failed. Clinton carried both Bucks and Montgomery counties north of Philadelphia by a large enough margin to win the combined vote in Philadelphia’s four surrounding counties —seriously damaging Obama’s metro Philadelphia-based strategy.

Montgomery county has the 11th largest Jewish population of any county outside New York, and Bucks county’s is 22nd. So what did Clinton do just before the election? She announced she would “totally obliterate” Iran if she were president and Iran attacked Israel. Iran is a far bigger and more powerful nation than Iraq was in 2003. While her rhetoric flies in the face of Democratic calls for negotiation and diplomacy to replace Bush/Chaney warmongering, Clinton’s bombastic comment evidently helped her win over metro Philly’s Jewish voters.

In similarly intemperate comments, Clinton promised in last week’s debate to end the U.S. military role in Iraq and withdraw our troops even if her military advisors said to do so would be a mistake, and she promised not to raise taxes on people making less than $200,000 a year. Both promises are absurd, and without a doubt Clinton would break them were she elected.

Clinton is shameless. She’ll say anything to get elected. Clinton knows that if she becomes president, it will be in spite of widespread evidence that she lies freely. So what difference do a few more lies make?

Keeping the pen mightier.

"The tongue is mightier than the blade."
--Euripides, d. 406 B.C

Obama preaches change. To me, Obama practices status quo. The old politics is intelligent people wielding the power of words to rule on behalf of the masses. The elite truly believes people who talk better and write better should rule. Democracy is tricky for elites, because the people--not an elite portion of them--are supposed to be sovereign.

The American elite has manipulated words to construct a phantom counter-elite the elite then knocks down on behalf of the masses. The elite portrays America’s counter elite as a minority of dirty businesses who pass money through K Street to run the country, in conjunction with right-wing talk radio, Fox News, and extremist, anti-abortion televangelists. The bad guys stole the 2000 election to put a puppet in the White House whom they have manipulated to go into Iraq for oil, to give tax breaks to the rich, to ship jobs to China, and to drown blacks in the waters of Katrina.

The elite will make America better by spending money at home where it should be spent, not wasting it abroad. Government is our friend. Controlled by the informed people, government will end war, create jobs, give us sound health, green the planet. And no victim will be left behind.

By contrast, in my view history progresses as the masses take direct control. In the elections of 1968, 1972, 1980, 1984, 1988, 2000, and 2004, the masses figured out the elite was trying to send America in a cosmopolitan, peace before victory, anti-faith direction and voted Republican. In 1976, 1992, and 1996, the masses believed Democratic-led government would improve their lives. In the Republican victories, 7 of 10 times, the people looked past the pen (the media) and saw the elite for what it is—contemptuous of average Americans. Obama, as agent of the status quo, wants power to remain with the elite, not pass to the unwashed. But to win, he must hide the truth that he seeks to strengthen elite power at the masses’ expense.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Economic Issue Will Slam McCain

Roll Call executive editor Mort Kondracke has points showing why it will be so hard for McCain to win any economic argument with Obama in the fall:

 [Last February], a team of four Democratic Congressmen led by Rep. Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) demolished a team of Republicans led by Rep. Adam Putnam (Fla.) by citing evidence Americans are not better off than they were when Bush became president.

 Median household income in the United States rose $6,000 in the Clinton administration, to $49,163, but fell to $48,023 during Bush's first six years in office.

 the economy grew by an average of 4% during the Clinton years and created an average 1.8 million jobs a year. Under Bush, gross domestic product has grown just 2.7% a year and created 369,000 jobs a year - and [the current] recession [will] cut even those numbers.

 The price of gasoline in 2001 was $1.39 per gallon. Now, it's $4. The number of Americans lacking health insurance was 38 million; now, it's 47 million. The national debt was $5.7 trillion in 2001; now, it's $9.2 trillion. The dollar was worth 1.07 euro; now, it's .68. The poverty rate, college costs, take-home pay, personal indebtedness, foreign oil dependency and the trade deficit all are worse than they were when Bush took office.

 According to the Brookings Institution, two-thirds of Bush's tax cuts went to those in the top 20% of income and left those making less than $100,000 a year paying more of the total burden of federal taxes than any other income group.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Breakthrough Election? (III)

Over the broad course of history, Democrats gained from the Depression, when Roosevelt successfully rallied northern working class voters behind the New Deal. Since 1932, Democrats have hoped economic issues will keep the population voting Democratic.

The 1960’s battles over civil rights and Vietnam brought the national elite into the Democratic Party, with national media holding open the door. The media played a key supporting role in the civil rights revolution, then media led the effort to use Vietnam to rid the country of Johnson and used Watergate to unhorse Nixon.

By 1974, the media had replaced the presidency as America's power center. Democrats since that time expect media control of the national agenda will keep power in Democrats’ hands. And from 1954 to the present, except for 2002-06 (and a few months in 2001), Democrats have successfully held the presidency or at least one house of Congress.

But divided control represents incomplete victory. Democrats now want it all—the presidency and both houses of congress. In the last 40 years, Democrats had full control only in 1976-80 and 1992-94. Today, the media are working to make Iraq (which they treat as Vietnam 2), the economy, and Bush’s ineptitude at home (Katrina) the basis for a Democratic breakthrough win in November.

While the table is set for Democratic victory, the outcome may depend on distorted reporting about the economy and Iraq. As this blog has noted, on both topics the media paint a bleaker picture than the actual reality.

Conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks, observing Wednesday’s debate, pounced on the unreality of Obama pledges on the economy and Iraq. The pledges threaten Democratic reliance on the economic and Iraq issues in November, if McCain is able to turn Obama’s words back on the Democrat. As Brooks wrote, Obama:

 made a sweeping read-my-lips pledge never to raise taxes on anybody making less than $200,000 to $250,000 a year. That will make it impossible to address entitlement reform any time in an Obama presidency. It will also make it much harder to afford the vast array of middle-class tax breaks, health care reforms and energy policy Manhattan Projects that he promises to deliver.

 Then he made an iron vow to get American troops out of Iraq within 16 months. Neither Obama nor anyone else has any clue what the conditions will be like when the next president takes office. He could have responsibly said that he aims to bring the troops home but will make a judgment at the time. Instead, he rigidly locked himself into a policy that will not be fully implemented for another three years.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Breakthrough Election? (II)

Wednesday’s crucial debate between Clinton and Obama points to difficulties the presumptive Democratic nominee may face in November. Democrats need to win back white, working class voters that only white Southern Democratic nominees Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton have successfully attracted in the last 40 years. The Washington Post’s Marie Cocco, a Clinton backer, smells Obama trouble with this group, zeroing in on Obama words that betray his elite separation from blue-collar whites. First, Cocco discusses Obama’s March 18 speech defending his relationship to the Rev. Wright, then she looks at his famous San Francisco remarks about working class “clinging.” Cocco writes:

 five seemingly insignificant words in [Obama's March 18 speech] struck me: "As far as they're concerned." This is how Obama prefaced his remarks about whites of immigrant stock whose experience is that, "as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything" and they've grasped whatever success they've achieved on their own. It is an awkward qualifier, suggesting that this is a perspective or a belief, and not necessarily the truth.

 [Obama says] working-class Americans living in small towns are bitter about their economic stress, and so they "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti- immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations." [Obama] has tried to talk his way out of this jam in part by pointing out that clinging to religious faith is a good thing. But what of those he says cling to "antipathy to people who aren't like them"? The word for such people is racist, and Obama knows it.

Princeton professor Larry Bartels has researched the precise group Obama is said to have offended—small-town, working class voters lacking a college degree. (Significantly, Bartels didn’t limit his working class sample to whites only.) Bartels concluded that not only do these small town Americans vote on economic as opposed to social issues, but also that they historically divide their votes nearly evenly between Republicans and Democrats. If Bartels is right, then Obama’s remarks have done him little permanent damage. If Cocco's right, then Obama may be losing a constituency Democrats needed in the past.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Breakthrough Election? (I)

The Civil War defined America until the Great Depression. The North won, its capitalist elite ran the country through the Republican Party, and Democrats, the South, workers and farmers made do. The Compromise of 1877, the one that put Republican Rutherford Hayes in the White House when Democrat Samuel Tilden [pictured] had actually won, kept national power with the GOP. Democrats in turn got back control of the South, as Hayes promised to end Washington’s Reconstruction efforts to empower Southern blacks.

From 1860 to 1932, Republicans controlled the White House 78% of the time. No Democrat besides Tilden (not Cleveland, not Wilson) ever won a popular vote majority. Unchallenged in Republican- controlled America, a white, male, Protestant, capitalist northern elite built on small business and backed by conservative newspaper publishers ran the nation.

Underneath, America was changing, reshaped by millions of immigrants. The New Deal brought to power the largely immigrant proletariat, poorer farmers, and especially, the proletariat's vanguard of intellectuals, along with a far more conservative Southern elite that had been the Democrats’ core group during the wilderness years. While the North’s upper class remained largely Republican, the country’s East Coast-based meritocracy moved Democratic. This Democratic coalition controlled the White House 78% of the time between 1932 and 1968.

The New Deal coalition fractured in the 1960’s with the civil rights struggle. Republicans under Goldwater in 1964 first captured a South that resented the integration Kennedy and Johnson forced on them. Then, as the civil rights struggle moved into northern working class neighborhoods, it alienated another Democratic core group--white ethnic Americans. But meanwhile, the Republican northern elite shifted independent or Democratic, in support of civil rights and in opposition to the Vietnam War conservative Republicans still endorsed. By Reagan’s election in 1980, much of the white working class and most of the South had left the Democrats. So in spite of poweerful elite opposition to its rule, Republicans controlled the White House 70% of the time from 1968 to the present.

Is 2008 another turning point? Republicans now depend upon northern churchgoing anti-abortionists, upon a shrunken slice of the elite limited mostly to small-business and the military, and upon people throughout the country but concentrated in the South who feel alienated from today’s secular, unpatriotic national elite. This grouping no longer seems large enough to win a national election. Many who supported Bush in 2004 now feel Bush kept us in an unnecessary war (Iraq), that he cares only about the wealthy while leaving working stiffs behind (the economy), and that he mismanages government (Katrina). They are looking to vote Democratic this fall.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

McCain Searches for Unstupid Economic Message

"[McCain] seems to have decided that it would be folly to run as the candidate of belt-tightening and balanced budgets in a year when economic insecurity is uppermost in voters' minds. Thus the grab-bag approach on display in this speech. . . leaving McCain without a signal theme. . ."

--Ross Douthat, The Atlantic

John McCain did what he had to do yesterday—attempt to articulate an approach to our economic difficulties that would compare favorably to prescriptions Democrats are offering. But as with The Atlantic’s Douthat, the Wall Street Journal felt McCain’s “pudding still has no theme.”

Here’s what the Journal liked:

 McCain spoke out strongly for tax reform and endorsed the specific idea of an optional flat tax. By making it optional, he deflects Democratic claims he'll rob Americans of their tax deductions.

 McCain repeated his proposal to cut the corporate tax rate to 25% from its current 35%. This is a competitive necessity, as the U.S. now has the second highest developed world corporate tax rate after Japan.

 McCain took a hard line on spending, promising to veto any bill with earmarks, and pledging a "one-year pause in discretionary spending increases," except for defense and veterans.

The Journal, however, didn’t like McCain's call for Washington to suspend the 18.4-cent-a-gallon federal gasoline tax during the Summer to help people hit by high oil prices. Lowering gas prices will likely increase demand, thereby driving prices up and diminishing the original discount.

McCain also took direct aim at overpaid business executives. If voters trace our problems to rich oil barons and Wall Street CEOs, they'll elect Obama. As the Journal concluded, “McCain tried to show voters he feels their pain. What they need and want to hear is . . .that he [will] fight for [their] prosperity.”

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Failure? Don't think so. This is progress.

"Hear no progress in Iraq, see no progress in Iraq, but most of all speak of no progress in Iraq."

--Sen. Joe Lieberman. 4.8.08

Gen. Petraeus’ report to the Senate on Iraq was a study in contained optimism. Too much has gone wrong in the country since 2003 to allow too much talk of going right. But anyone who looks closely at recent developments in Iraq has to be excited. It’s not just that al Qaeda is so much on the run that our main al Qaeda problem has returned to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border areas where it all began. No, that’s only part of the story.

The big story of 2008 is Nouri al Maliki’s determination to bring the armed (by Iran) Shiite militia of Muqtada al Sadr under government control. Maliki, by undertaking this action, has placed himself on the side of the U.S., the Sunnis, the Kurds, and all the Shiites who don’t like or who fear Sadr. Maliki’s forces have yet to win. But in the upcoming battle, it helps that not only does Maliki have lots of support, he also doesn’t need to destroy Sadr or defeat his Iranian backers. Maliki only needs to move Sadr away from using armed force, and into the political arena, where Sadr already has support.

We don’t need an Iraq of one mind. We just need to have an Iraq at peace. And that now seems possible.

After just a year, Petraeus is on his way to becoming one of the great generals in U.S. history. Mao Zedong told us that guerrillas move among the people like fish in the sea. Sir Robert Thompson of Malaya taught us that separating guerrillas from the sea—draining the ocean—took a decade or more. Petraeus is discovering you don’t have to drain the ocean at all. You just work harder than the guerrillas do on making the sea accept you. I don’t believe Petraeus himself thought this could happen so quickly. He’s holding down his joy. (“Champagne pushed to the back of the refrigerator.”)

But wow. And rembember who gets the major credit: the Iraqi people.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Iraq Back in the Headlines

With al Maliki's attempt to gain control over renegade Shiite militias in Basra and Baghdad, Iraq is back in the headlines again. Here's our latest monthly look at Iraq, a highly abbreviated version of the Iraq Index, published and updated twice a week by Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution:

Americans Killed in Action, Iraq (monthly average)
2003: 32
2004: 59
2005: 56
2006: 58
2007: 63
2008: 31
March: 29

Americans Killed in Action, Vietnam (monthly average)
1965: 128*
1966: 420
1967: 767
1968: 1140
1969: 785
1970: 413
* = First U.S. combat troops arrived in Vietnam, 5.3.65
Vietnam table compiled by Galen Fox using Defense Department sources.

Crude Oil Production (m. bbls./day)

Prewar Peak: 2.50
Goal: 2.20 (Revised upward, 1/08)
actual: 2.38 (3/08)

Electricity (megawatts)

Prewar: 3,958
Goal: 6,000
actual: 4,220 (3/08)

Since our last monthly report, the monthly American KIA total dropped to 29 in March from 33 the month before, even though 8 Americans died on a single day, March 11. And the monthly American KIA average remains at half the rate of 2 a day sustained for most of the Iraq war, with the monthly average for 2008 at 31, the lowest for any year of the war. [Please note: the number of KIA is almost always lower than the media-reported total of American deaths, which covers all causes, including non-hostile. Our Iraq and Vietnam figures are KIA only.] The single best marker of the surge's success is the continued low rate of American KIA since September 2007.

In March, oil output remained steady at 2.38 million barrels a day. Revenue from oil exports continues at all-time highs, with January's total the highest on record, and February's the second highest. When complete figures are in for March, its revenue should be at or near the top, partly due to oil's all-time high prices. As for electricity, output was up from 3,950 to 4,220 megawatts, the highest for any March on record (electricity demand is seasonal, making seasonal comparisons the most relevant).

The Iraq Index has included results of an ABC News/BBC/ARD German TV/USA Today poll of Iraqi public opinion completed in February. The results show increased optimism from Iraqis. By 36% to 26%, they say security in Iraq is getting better. Last August, they said "worse" by 61% to 11%. Asked to rate the overall situation in Iraq, 61% of Shia, 16% of Sunni, and 45% of Kurds said it was "very good" or "good." Last September, those figures were: Shia, 39%, Sunni 2%, Kurd, 17%. Asked how things would be a year from now, 46% said "better," 20% "worse." Last August, the figures were "better" 23%, "worse" 42%.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Tribal Warfare Revisited

Michael Barone, writing in US News, has come up with an analysis of the Democratic primary that’s very close to my entry, “Tribal Warfare.” Barone writes, “analysts have been seeing the battle for the Democratic nomination as tribal warfare, between blacks and Latinos (and Jews), between young and old, between upscale and downscale.” To that, Barone adds his own, “one that separates voters more profoundly than even race. That's the divide between academics and Jacksonians.” Barone argues,

“Academics and public employees (and of course . . . most academics in the United States are public employees) love the arts of peace and hate the demands of war. Economically, defense spending competes for the public-sector dollars that academics and public employees think are rightfully their own. . .[W]arriors are competitors for the honor that academics and public employees think rightfully belongs to them. Jacksonians, in contrast, place a high value on the virtues of the warrior and little value on the work of academics and public employees.”

Barone is on to something. But while his Jacksonians don’t like government interference, the working class whites supporting Clinton do. The Clinton folks are regular Democrats who loved the New Deal, Old Glory, God, war hero JFK, and Hillary’s doughnut-eating husband. While they don’t reject blacks per se (Colin Powell is o.k.), they don’t like uppity, highfalutin blacks like Obama. The tribal warfare Clinton’s tapped into by going after the Rev. Jeremiah Wright is upscale/elite v. downscale/white.

Anyway, that’s how I see it.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Business Reporting: Doom, Gloom, Sly Smiles

The stock market yesterday recorded its largest first-day-of-the-
second quarter gain in seventy years
. But Betsy Stark on ABC News last night skipped the upbeat superlatives, argued the market moves up and down like a seesaw, and essentially proclaimed the market would soon dip steeply again. Thanks Betsy. We know you are fixed on pushing the bad economic news that will bring Democratic victory this Fall. Wouldn’t want the other outcome, would we?

Investor’s Business Daily put it this way: “As the election nears, the mainstream media, unable this time to make an issue out of Iraq, are focusing on the economy on behalf of the Democrats. And they're more than a bit overwrought.”

In fact, the stock market historically rises six months before any recession ends, so a current recession still seems likely even with the market recovering. And a second quarter recession virtually guarantees a November incumbent party defeat. Furthermore, the housing market decline has yet to hit bottom. It all means that, even if the stock market is headed up, Stark is likely to have both her recession and her Democratic victory.

While biased reporting seems unnecessary, it’s a fact of life. John Lott at Fox News in a recent study documented media economic reporting bias. He found that:

• A Nexis search on news stories during [a] three-month period [of Clinton’s recession] from July 2000 through September 2000 using the keywords “economy recession US” produces 1,388. By contrast, the same search over just the last month finds 3,166. Or, even more telling, take the three months from July through September last year, when the GDP was growing at a phenomenal 4.9 percent. The same type of Google search shows 2,475 news stories. Over 78 percent more negative news stories discussed a recession when the economy under a Republican was soaring than occurred under a Democrat when the economy was shrinking.

• The average unemployment rate during President Clinton time was 5.2%. The current unemployment rate is 4.8%.

• Kevin Hassett and I looked at 12,620 newspaper and wire service headlines from 1985 through 2004 for stories on the release of official government releasing numbers on the unemployment rate, number of people employed, gross domestic product (GDP), retail sales, and durable goods. Even after accounting for how well the economy was doing (e.g., what the unemployment rate was and whether it was going up or down), Democratic presidents got about 15% more positive headlines than Republicans for the same economic news.