Tuesday, January 31, 2012

America’s Damaged Working Class

In “The Gated Country,” we repeated Charles Murray’s description of how the upper class lives so differently from the rest of us. Murray, however, has documented another profound division below the top: that between upper middle class college graduates and a lower class whose education stopped with high school.

Murray examined only non-Latino whites in order to clarify how broad and deep U.S. cultural divisions have become. And he looked only at those between the ages 30 to 49 to show the trends aren’t explained by ages of marriage or retirement.

To represent the 20% of whites between 30-49 who are college graduates working as a manager, physician, attorney, engineer, architect, scientist, college professor or content producer in the media, Murray has created the fictional community of Belmont (after an archetypal upper-middle-class suburb near Boston).

And to represent the 30% of whites between 30-49 with no degree beyond high school, who if they work, are in a blue-collar job, a low-skill service job such as cashier, or a low-skill white-collar job such as mail clerk or receptionist, he invents Fishtown (after a neighborhood in Philadelphia that has been home to the white working class since the Revolution—see picture).

In his examination of differences, Murray emphasizes single parenthood because he believes children born to unmarried women fare worse than the children of divorce and far worse than those raised in intact families, an unwelcome reality even after controlling for parents’ income and education. And he justifies his look at religiosity by noting that about half of American philanthropy, volunteering and associational memberships is directly church-related, and religious Americans also account for much more nonreligious social capital than their secular neighbors.

Below, a chart that lays out the differences between Belmont and Fishtown:

* = “de facto secular” is someone who professes no religion or attends a worship service no more than once a year.

Murray’s statistics portray two starkly different worlds within the U.S. below the upper class “gated country” at the top. “Belmont” is aspirational, upper middle class, and part of an America that works. “Fishtown” presents a problem Murray sees as cultural, a lower class caught in a downward spiral of deterioration because 1960s social policy made it economically more feasible to have a child without a husband if you were a woman or to get along without a job if you were a man; safer to commit crimes without suffering consequences; and easier to let government handle community problems you and your neighbors formerly took care of.

Murray doesn’t see any easy solution to closing a gap that was smaller in 1960, and is gigantic today. But, he says:
There remains a core of civic virtue and involvement in working-class America that could make headway against its problems if the people who are trying to do the right things get the reinforcement they need—not in the form of government assistance, but in validation of the values and standards they continue to uphold. The best thing that the new upper class can do to provide that reinforcement is to drop its condescending "nonjudgmentalism." Married, educated people who work hard and conscientiously raise their kids shouldn't hesitate to voice their disapproval of those who defy these norms. When it comes to marriage and the work ethic, the new upper class must start preaching what it practices.[emphasis added]

Monday, January 30, 2012

Innovative, exceptional. America.

In the Wall Street Journal, Mark P. Mills and Julio M. Ottino have given us an optimistic look at where our country is going. Here’s the condensed version:

we [are] on the cusp of three grand technological transformations with the potential to rival that of the past century. All find their epicenters in America: big data, smart manufacturing and the wireless revolution.

➢ Information technology has entered a big-data era. Processing power and data storage are virtually free.

Smart manufacturing (picture). . . we are just entering an era where the very fabrication of physical things is revolutionized by emerging materials science.

➢ Finally, there is the unfolding communications revolution where soon most humans on the planet will be connected wirelessly. Never before have a billion people . . .been able to communicate, socialize and trade in real time.

. . .consider three features that most define America, and that are essential for unleashing the promises of technological change: our youthful demographics, dynamic culture and diverse educational system.

demographics. By 2020, America will be younger than both China and the euro zone, if the latter still exists. Youth brings . . . the ineluctable energy that propels everything.

➢ [Our c]ulture . . . is . . .high inertia. . . distinguished by . . . open-mindedness, risk-taking, hard work, playfulness, and, critical for nascent new ideas, a healthy dose of anti-establishment thinking.

➢ American higher education[‘s] most salient features are flexibility and diversity of educational philosophies, curricula and the professoriate. . . a dizzying range of approaches . . . Good. One size definitely does not fit all.

to help usher in this new era of entrepreneurial growth [we need l]iquid financial markets, sensible tax and immigration policy, and balanced regulations . . . But the essential fuel is innovation.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Gated Country

“liberals often argue that the real enemies of average Americans aren’t bureaucrats and Harvard-trained technocrats; they are the financial wizards, evil corporations and plutocratic tycoons. Maybe so, but at this point the argument doesn’t convince many people. Besides, why can’t both be enemies? After all, many elite liberal Democrats, in office and out, have been exceedingly Wall Street-friendly.”

--Walter Russell Mead, The American Interest

We have a sharply divided nation. Because conservatives are represented at the top of our liberal-dominated power and wealth social structure where most national dialog takes place, we mistakenly believe conservative/business v. liberal/knowledge represents the true national division.

In fact, the American upper class not only has its schools, its residences, even its entire lifestyle in common, but also shares its separation from, and its fear of, America’s less-favored super-majority. Credit for this understanding Charles Murray, whose Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960–2010 documents our profound class divisions.

Our upper class is nationwide gated America physically separated from the rest of us. Murray, in his own words:
the top of American society. . . run the country, meaning that they are responsible for the films and television shows you watch, the news you see and read, the fortunes of the nation's corporations and financial institutions, and the jurisprudence, legislation and regulations produced by government. They are the new upper class, [highly] detached from the lives of the great majority of Americans . . .—not just socially but spatially as well. The members of this elite have increasingly sorted themselves into hyper-wealthy and hyper-elite ZIP Codes. . . SuperZIPs.

If you are invited to a dinner party by one of Washington's power elite, the odds are high that you will be going to a home in Georgetown, the rest of Northwest D.C., Chevy Chase, Bethesda, Potomac or McLean, comprising 13 adjacent ZIP Codes in all. If you rank all the ZIP Codes in the country on an index of education and income and group them by percentiles, you will find that 11 of these 13 D.C.-area ZIP Codes are in the 99th percentile and the other two in the 98th. Ten of them are in the top half of the 99th percentile. Similarly large clusters of SuperZIPs can be found around New York City, Los Angeles, the San Francisco-San Jose corridor, Boston and a few of the nation's other largest cities. Because running major institutions in this country usually means living near one of these cities, it works out that the nation's power elite [lives in a] culturally rarefied and isolated [world].

Increasingly, the people who run the country were born into [this] world. [T]hey have never known anything but the new upper-class culture. We are now seeing more and more third-generation members of the elite. Not even their grandparents have been able to give them a window into life in the rest of America.
Insulated. Isolated. And afraid.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Lost Nation

"Today, General Motors is back on top as the world's number one automaker. . . What's happening in Detroit can happen in other industries. It can happen in Cleveland and Pittsburgh and Raleigh."

--President Barack Obama, 2012 State of the Union speech

"The core institutions, ideas and expectations that shaped American life for the sixty years after the New Deal don’t work anymore. . . But even as the failures of the old system become more inescapable and more damaging, our national discourse remains stuck in a bygone age."

--Walter Russell Mead, The American Interest

“The future ain't what it used to be.”

--Yogi Berra

In truth, it’s unlikely manufacturing will yield substantial job growth in America.

Adam Davidson’s “Making It in America,” in the latest issue of The Atlantic, captured the New York Times editorial room Monday, on the eve of Obama’s State of the Union. Both Thomas Friedman and David Brooks based their columns on Davidson’s article. Quoting Davidson, Friedman wrote that advances in both globalization and the information technology revolution are replacing U.S. labor with machines or foreign workers, with employers finding above average yet cheap foreign labor, cheap robotics, cheap software, cheap automation and cheap genius. Said Davidson:
In the 10 years ending in 2009, [U.S.] factories shed workers so fast that they erased almost all the gains of the previous 70 years; roughly one out of every three manufacturing jobs — about 6 million in total — disappeared.
Friedman added that unemployment for Americans over 25 years old with a high school degree is 8.7%, dropping to 4.1% for those with bachelor’s degree or higher (but note: the unemployment rate for college graduates, historically around 2%, is now above 4% for the first time in record-keeping history).

Brooks’ treatment of the Davidson article went to the causes of a less competitive American workforce. Wrote Brooks:
millions of mothers can’t rise because they don’t have adequate support systems as they try to improve their skills. Tens of millions of children have poor life chances because they grow up in disorganized environments that make it hard to acquire the social, organizational and educational skills they will need to become productive workers.

Tens of millions of men have marred life chances because schools are bad at educating boys, because they are not enmeshed in the long-term relationships that instill good habits and because insecure men do stupid and self-destructive things. Over the past 40 years. . . median incomes of men have dropped 28% and male labor force participation rates are down 16%.
Brooks blames the male income decline on “the deterioration of the moral and social landscape” surrounding men. But while Brooks points to social causes for unemployment, like Friedman, Brooks remains as fixed as ever on the “government do something” mode of problem solving. Friedman’s big recommendation is a “G.I. Bill for the 21st century that ensures that every American has access to post-high school education.” That could be expensive.

Brooks suggests government simplify the tax code, cut corporate rates, streamline regulations, make immigration policy more flexible, balance the budget, support training programs like Job Corps, coordinate better between colleges and employers, pay superstar teachers more, and expand child care and early childhood education. Whew.

What about Walter Russell Mead, whose quote above calls for a post-big-government approach to our unemployment problem? What’s his “do something”? Mead wants “a project that can capture the best energies of our rising generations, those who will lead the United States and the world to new and richer ways of living.”

OK, but. . .

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Great Debates

“[In t]he general election . . [i]t is unlikely that the debates. . .will matter. . . much; they rarely do.”

--National Review editorial

The National Review is in the tank for Mitt Romney. Newt Gingrich’s strong point is debates, and he believes that if nominated, he can beat Barack Obama in presidential debates this fall. In discounting the decisiveness of debates, the National Review is rewriting history. Presidential debates played a major or dominant role in deciding 8 of 10 (80%) of the elections during which they took place.

Here are the presidential debates that mattered:

1960: First debate ever. Kennedy holds his own, looks better than Nixon, emerges as presidential, wins debate and election. Debate so consequential that no debates take place in 1964, 1968, or 1972.

1976: Second debate of three. Ford unaccountably and inaccurately proclaims Poland is not under Soviet domination, in spite of moderator’s effort to help him say otherwise. Ford loses debate and election.

: Only Reagan-Carter debate, held week before election. Reagan (picture) parries Carter attacks with “There you go again” and concludes by asking voters, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” Reagan wins debate and election in a landslide. Debate so consequential subsequent final debates all held at least two weeks before election.

1984: Second debate of two. In first debate, Reagan stumbled and showed his age. In second, Reagan crushed age issue by saying, "I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience." Mondale threat effectively collapsed at that point.

1988: Second debate of two. Asked if he would still oppose capital punishment if his wife were raped and murdered, Dukakis replied by statistically documenting the ineffectiveness of capital punishment. Dukakis lost the debate and the election to Bush 41.

1992: Second debate of three between Bush 41, Clinton, and Ross Perot. In first ever town hall format debate, an apparently bored Bush was caught on camera looking at his watch during audience-candidate discussion of the weak economy. Symbolized Bush’s detachment from the economy and helped cost him the election.

1996: None. Clinton kept his lead over Dole through two debates.

: First of three debates. Gore caught audibly sighing several times during Bush 43 answers, a demonstration of condescension that voters disliked, helping cost Gore a very close election.

2000: Third of three debates. Gore walks up to Bush while Bush is answering a Gore question, invading Bush’s personal space, a demonstration of disrespect that voters disliked, helping cost Gore a very close election.

: Third of three debates. Kerry publicly calls out Vice President Chaney’s lesbian daughter to make the point that homosexuality is inherent, not acquired, crossing a personal-political line to which the Chaneys strongly objected, likely costing Kerry votes in a close election.

2008: None. Obama kept his lead over McCain through three debates.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Iron Lady

“The Washington Post-ABC poll just out produced an extraordinary 57% disapproval of the economic stewardship of Barack Obama, whose life goal seems to be to reverse the policies of 1980-2000.” [emphasis added]

--Daniel Henninger, Wall Steet Journal

Margaret Thatcher ruled Britain from 1979 to 1990, leading her Conservative Party through three election victories.

I have seen the odd movie, “Iron Lady.” Do you think race hurt Obama’s election prospects more than it helped? Me neither. Thatcher became Britain’s leader in part because she was a woman and because she was a grocer’s daughter.

Still, as I have suggested and as we all know, Thatcher was bigger than “woman prime minister.” She was a transformative, revolutionary political leader, big enough to stand right alongside the transformative, revolutionary Ronald Reagan. The two were larger than the sum of their parts. Thatcher-Reagan. Roosevelt-Churchill. Dominant English-speaking duos of the 20th Century.

Millions in Britain still hate Thatcher for the way she transformed their country, much as Obama and millions of others quietly curse Reagan for the changes he brought America. The British left is very important to the world of Meryl Streep and her team, who correctly viewed a Streep portrayal of Thatcher as a pretty direct path to an Oscar. So how to handle the Thatcher story in a way that doesn’t alienate the left?

First, dwell on Thatcher’s dementia, not her strong leadership. Streep’s convincing portrayal of Thatcher in advanced decline really is Oscar-winning acting, a brilliant—and wonderfully pro-left—move from Streep and her team. At the same time, there is just enough of Thatcher in her youth and prime to keep the story interesting (of course a much better movie would have focused on what Thatcher called “the Downing Street years.”)

Second, deflect leftist criticism by playing up (in interviews, not in the movie) Thatcher’s less-than-conservative side. From Jen Vineyard’s story on the movie, carried in “Indywire” (Canada):
Streep pointed out, Thatcher was a fiscal conservative, not a social one. "She was pro-choice, she was an early proponent of global warming, and she had no beef against personal lives, homosexuality," the actress said. "She would have been drummed out of the conservative party in America."
Third, defame conservative powerhouse Maggie as a less-than-adequate mother. Virginia Postrel, in “Bloomberg,” calls the “Iron Lady” movie:
the Gospel According to Anna Quindlen, the [New York Times] writer and columnist who enshrined [her gospel’s] maxims in . . . the best-selling book A Short Guide to a Happy Life. “No man ever said on his deathbed I wish I had spent more time in the office,” she instructed. “Don’t ever forget the words my father sent me on a postcard last year: ‘If you win the rat race, you’re still a rat.’” The film presents Thatcher as just such a rat -- a woman who too zealously pursued public achievement and spent way too much time at the office.
1-2-3. Hollywood reduces Thatcher to a sad old lady who alienated the people she most cared for, and who Streep tells us was a closet liberal to boot.

Here’s a taste of the real Margaret Thatcher, from a 1979 campaign speech:
The Old Testament prophets did not say “Brothers, I want a consensus.” They said, “This is my faith; this is what I passionately believe; if you believe it too, then come with me."
With that passion and drive, Thatcher between 1979 and 1987 reduced the number of British civil servants by 22.5% (732,000 to 567,000). That's a career-justifying accomplishment.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Liberal Elite, Center-Right Country

“Those who underestimate the conservative movement are the same people who always underestimate the American people.”

--Ronald Reagan (1988)

1965. The last year it was great to be a liberal. The year of the Great Society’s Voting Rights Act and Medicare, as well as the Immigration Act of 1965, which opened U.S. immigration to the increasingly important non-European, nonwhite world. 1965 also brought sustained U.S. bombing of North Vietnam, the introduction of U.S. combat troops into full-scale combat in Vietnam, doubling of the draft to 35,000 a month and Pentagon requests for an escalation to 400,000 troops. The war’s escalation in turn led throughout the nation to teach-ins, mass demonstrations, draft card burnings, and the first American self-immolations. 1965. The first year it was bad to be a liberal.

From 1965 on liberals had little to celebrate, as Republicans made major gains in the 1966 elections, then elected Nixon president in 1968 and 1972. In 1976 Democrats barely beat Gerald Ford following Watergate with an inept and increasingly unpopular Jimmy Carter, who presided (1977-81) over an energy crisis, rising unemployment, slow growth, inflation (“stagflation”), the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the Iran hostage crisis.

Ronald Reagan’s successful presidency (1981-89) turned the nation away from liberalism, led to the elections of Bush 41 and Bush 43 (1989-93, 2001-09), and even under “New Democrat” Bill Clinton (1993-2001) yielded up GOP control of congress over Clinton’s final six years, including his 1998 House impeachment for perjury.

The 1997-99 impeachment fight marked a turning point for Democrats, even though Republicans did control both the White House and Congress for most of 2001-06. In 1997, Southerner Clinton gave up on being “GOP lite.” He instead embraced progressive Democrats, who provided Clinton the one-third of the Senate he needed to stave off a perjury conviction and early removal from office.

Southern conservative abandonment of the Democratic Party, complete by 2000, made the surviving Democratic core more purely progressive. At the same time, Democrats had solidified their domination of America’s ruling class, the government-connected elite fighting to hang on to the power they seized during liberalism’s growth years. Elites play by different rules—their rules. To elites, words are weapons, truth is relative, the law is flexible, and God is a myth created for the masses. Smarter, richer, better educated, elites know what’s best for us.

Bush 43’s failed presidency, abetted at every step by liberal domination of government, the media, academia, entertainment, and the arts—the knowledge economy—led by 2006 to Democrats controlling Congress for the first time since 1994. Democrats then recaptured the entire country in 2008 with Barack Obama’s smashing victory and further Democratic congressional gains.

Democrats have subsequently moved us toward a European-style social democracy of big government, higher taxes, crony capitalism's tamed businesses, and masses dependent on bureaucratic largesse centered on universal health care. Progressives want equality not of opportunity, but of results. It helps Democrats that the people who benefit most in such a society are the national elite, the ones who run the show.

The progressives’ coalition—a knowledge-economy head, a dependency underbelly—importantly rests upon minorities and unmarried women. They along with educated young people (our future knowledge economy) provided the 2008 votes that truly returned progressivism to power for the first time since 1965.

Valerie Jarrett (picture), we learn from New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor’s biography The Obamas, is a very important person in today’s progressive coalition. Jarrett touches every coalition base. She is African American, unmarried (divorced), from an elite family, born in Iran, a graduate of Stanford and Michigan law school, and Barack and Michelle Obama’s closest confidante. In the conservative Weekly Standard, Matthew Continetti paints this revealing miniature of Jarrett:
Jarrett told author David Remnick that the reason she bonded with Barack Obama was that “he and I shared a view of where the United States fit in the world, which is often different from the view people have who have not traveled outside the United States as young children.” Remnick goes on to write that Jarrett viewed America “as one country among many, rather than as the center of all wisdom and experience.”
Do progressives feel isolated in a center-right nation? Not really, for they know, as Valerie Jarrett knows, they live in a larger world that like their coalition is nonwhite and majority female, and looks to them for leadership.

Within the U.S. though, as the 2010 elections demonstrated, progressives remain a minority. Here’s John Feehery in The Hill:
Among all whites, now just 35% approve of [Obama’s] performance and 58% disapprove. . . the Obama White House has made the decision that it doesn’t need those white voters to win. That may be true in 20 years, but it is not true today. The swing vote in this next election is the same as it has been in the last six elections. It is the white working-class voter.
More facts on progressive weakness from conservative Nile Gardiner, writing in The Telegraph (UK):
in 2011, . . . 40% of Americans continu[ed] to describe their views as conservative, 35% as moderate, and 21% as liberal. . .conservatives have become the single largest group, consistently outnumbering moderates since 2009 and outnumbering liberals by 2-to-1.

As Gallup’s surveys show, Americans’ fear of big government is now at near-record levels, with nearly two thirds of Americans identifying it as the greatest threat to the country:

The 64% of Americans who say big government will be the biggest threat to the country is just one percentage point shy of the record high, while the 26% who say big business is down from the 32% recorded during the recession.
One would think this Democratic coalition, importantly built upon minority votes, would cater to minority demands. But Joel Kotkin, in Forbes, asks “does the progressive agenda actually support minority upward mobility?” Kotkin believes that
From its inception the Obama administration’s focus has been on the largely white information economy, notably boosting universities and the green-industrial complex based in places like Silicon Valley. The Obama team’s decision to surrender working class whites to appeal to what Democratic strategists call the “mass upper middle class” makes political sense but could lead to problems for an American working class that is itself increasingly minority.
I think Kotkin is understating the political cost of such a strategy. If Democrats are giving up on the white working class, they really are giving up on the working class of all colors, and of both sexes. That could well be a prescription for minority status.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Romney Fix: Conservatives Speak Out

"Democrats do believe that Romney is eminently beatable, the perfect foil for President Obama, in fact. . . from the start, it’s been clear that Romney is the choice of the Beltway GOP establishment, which regards conservatives and Tea Partiers as the grubby unwashed. Meanwhile, Democrats and their media allies have been busy measuring Romney for the Occupy Wall Street/One Percenter memorial bad-guy suit. They can’t wait to rip him apart over his background as a corporate turnaround specialist who may have saved some golden parachutes but put ordinary folks out of work."

--Michael A. Walsh, New York Post

"[Republicans’] non-Mitt mood just won't go away. Indeed, it's intensifying. [People] doubt whether he is in fact the best candidate to beat President Obama. For instance, you hear conservatives wondering more and more whether all of the attention from the White House is a head fake. Romney certainly makes a convenient foil for a presidential campaign already in populist overdrive."

--Jonah Goldberg, Los Angeles Times

"Today's historical moment is one shaped by recession and belt-tightening. It's also shot through with outrage. The American people are animatedly angry at their political and corporate elites. Romney is both a political and corporate elite, and it's difficult to imagine him animated about anything, much less angry. All the open shirt collars and appearances on Letterman can't . . . blot that damning picture from Bain Capital, where Romney grins as dollar bills flutter downwards [see above]."

-- Matt Thomas, American Spectator

"What most pundits think of as 'electable,' a safe candidate attractive to moderate voters, has historically been highly unlikely to unseat an incumbent president. In the five elections since World War II in which the party out of power has picked a 'safe' candidate to take on a sitting president, the result was defeat[--Tom Dewey (1948), Adlai Stevenson (1956), Walter Mondale (1984), Bob Dole (1996), John Kerry (2004). Safe] choices have been zero-for-five at unseating incumbents.

--Lawrence B. Lindsey, Weekly Standard

Comment: I made the same point here.

"Romney’s establishment Republicans, . . . like the Bourbons of France, forget nothing, and learn nothing. Since 1896, only Republicans who have campaigned on a pro-growth platform have been elected. Mitt Romney, instead of being the most electable, is firmly in the tradition of Thomas Dewey, Jerry Ford, Bob Dole, and John McCain."

--Peter Ferrara, Forbes

"What may unite Republicans more than anything else is their desire to oust President Obama from the White House, and that may be enough to propel Romney or another Republican to a general election victory. But banking on that strategy is risky business."

--Brian Calle, Orange Country Register

"Romney’s biggest challenge, [said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a political analyst at the University of Southern California:] 'He just doesn’t ring authentic. Charisma is good, but better is authenticity or a perception of authenticity by the voters. And I think that is where Romney fails and that is part of what the Obama campaign is going to focus on.'”

--George E. Condon Jr., National Journal

Monday, January 09, 2012

The Fix: Democrats Want Romney.

“Liberals have a rendezvous with regret. Their largest achievement is today’s redistributionist government. But such government is inherently regressive: It tends to distribute power and money to the strong, including itself.”

--George Will, Washington Post

In Communist societies, mostly withering carcasses today, the operating ideology was redistributionist. And socialists, as George Will suggests, rule through an elite of major beneficiaries, known variously as the “inner party” (1984), the nomanklatura (USSR), the “New Class” (Yugoslavia), or “the princelings” (today’s China).

A version of this Socialist/Communist redistributionist ideology survives today in Democratic Party America. Republicans can either accept the ruling class’s chosen Republican for retaining elite power—Mitt Romney—or they can fight the elite’s preferred candidate with all the energy left at their disposal.

Why is the Republican nominating process thus far yielding up Romney? In part, it’s because the entire Democratic establishment has nothing to do this season but mess with the Republican nomination. Here’s how liberal “messing around” in the GOP selection process is benefiting Romney:

First, Democratic involvement has meant money for Romney, media concentration on Romney, and a systematic effort to knock off every conservative rival to Romney as that rival emerges. Conrad Black, writing weeks ago in the conservative National Review, described the Democratic blowback after Newt Gingrich had emerged as the latest conservative alternative to Romney:
The Obama administration . . . character-assassination squads, though their ranks are now so deep they are the largest such work party since the scores of people who crowded into the firing squad to execute the Ceausescus, [cannot] believe their good fortune. [In] a replication of the 25-battleship sustained bombardment of Okinawa[, they are now going all-out to bring] Newt down.
Second, as we have said, the conservative rump of the ruling class—GOP intellectuals working in the Northeast—truly believe one of their own is most likely to stop Harvard law’s Obama. That would be Harvard law and Harvard business school graduate Romney. The conservative elite has therefore done its best to bring down Romney’s opponents in succession—Bachmann, Perry, Cain, Gingrich, and now Santorum, while leaving Romney’s undistinguished Massachusetts governor record largely unexamined.

Third, the media have held a huge series of debates featuring such a large number of candidates that it is difficult to bore in on serious issues, and relatively easy to knock down participants through “wrong” responses to “gotcha” questions, responses that nevertheless fail to keep the minor candidates from returning again and again, and confusing the succeeding debates. Debates quite obviously also favor candidates such as Romney who are intellectually superior and who benefit from previous campaign experience.

Fourth, the media and Democrats have quietly helped along Ron Paul by treating him as a serious candidate, while hiding his overwhelming dependence on young people—essentially Democrats—attracted to his extreme anti-war and pro-drug legalization platform. Republican Paul is receiving the same kid glove treatment the media gave Obama in 2008. Like Romney, Paul additionally benefits in debates from having previously gone through them. Paul’s presence is complicating the conservative effort to find a single alternative to Romney, as is Jon Huntsman’s candidacy.

Fifth, Democrats and the media are playing a deep game that has confused conservatives about exactly what’s going on. Here’s FOX News anchor Chris Wallace talking to Democratic Party chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz this past Sunday:
WALLACE: Republicans are just beginning to pick . . . their nominee [and already] your party is putting out ad after ad targeting Mitt Romney. And, in fact, during the debate last night, the DNC sent out several e-mails going after Romney but no one else. Why all of the focus by your party on Mitt Romney?

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Mitt Romney has earned that scrutiny. He had spent his entire campaign relentless attacking President Obama, distorting his record, decategorizing his record.

WALLACE: Forget about distorting. That fact is all of the Republicans are going after Obama. But you guys are going after Mitt Romney.

WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, Mitt Romney is one of the candidates who was near the top, or at the top. . .
If Democrats like Romney, why are they attacking him? Do they in fact fear Romney? As we noted earlier, conservative radio king Rush Limbaugh thinks Democrats are indeed attacking Romney, even though they want him to be the GOP nominee, because they want to delay the nomination as much as possible and force Romney to waste resources now that won’t be available to fight Obama later.

Limbaugh, having to defend his Machiavellian thinking against disbelievers, has just seized upon former Democratic Party chair Donna Brazile’s frank statement, on CNN, that Democrats do indeed want Romney to win:
BRAZILE: Mitt Romney won tonight because no one touched him -- and for Democrats, you know what? It was good news for us.
Limbaugh calls Brazile’s comment “a major faux pas.” Rush:
The line that's supposed to come out of the Democrat Party is they're scared of Romney. The line is, "Oh, no, they don't want to face Romney. Romney is the toughest guy." [But] the Democrats know that our experts are stupid enough to believe that the Democrats will be honest and tell us who they really don't want to face.
Confused? Wallace says Democrats are out to stop Romney, and Limbaugh says the opposite. I think Limbaugh is largely right. Democrats want the fight to go on and waste Romney’s resources. But they also want Romney to win, and are quietly working for that outcome. They want Romney to win because they want the election to be about which party is more compassionate, and certainly not about whether business or government does better at job creation.

Romney’s reluctance to engage in “class warfare,” a reticence based on his Wall Street background and his being born with “a silver spoon in his mouth,” makes beating him easier than taking on a non-elitist. Romney also largely forfeits the GOP’s ability to attack Democrats on Obamacare; after all, Romney is the father of Romneycare. More generally, Romney’s meritocracy background puts the election battle on a field upon which Democrats are comfortable winning, the same way John Kerry’s decision to battle George Bush in 2004 on national security gave comfort to Republicans.

Democrats do sincerely believe the Republican extremist candidates are easier to beat than Romney, but they also see a real risk in fighting on a new battlefield, not only for them, but for the country as a whole. The country cannot afford Gingrich/Santorum/Perry. Better the devil you know than a truly awful outcome, such as Reagan’s victory over Carter in 1980.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

200,000 jobs. Look at that!

The good economic news for Obama keeps coming. Yesterday’s report of 200,000 new jobs in December means payroll growth in the U.S. beat consensus forecasts by 45,000. At the same time, as the economy kicked off 2012, the unemployment rate dropped unexpectedly to 8.5%, its lowest level in almost three years. The 200,000-job increase did follow a November gain revised down to 100,000, smaller than estimated last month. Still, in another positive development, averages rose of both hours worked and weekly earnings, measurements that indicate future job growth.

Below is how, with 9 months left, Obama is doing gauged against his two most important employment targets: the unemployment rate and total number of jobs when he took over in January 2009. For the first time since we began charting the gap between current totals and the targets, it seems possible Obama may actually reach at least one. While December’s total of 200,000 jobs created may not repeat itself nine more times in succession, job creation could indeed theoretically average 200,000 (actually, only 185,000) a month over that same period.