Why Republicans never actually cut the deficit

Chait is awesome on this stuff. If I had more time to waste, I think this would make a cool diagram:

The loop begins with Republicans gaining power on the basis of promising to cut unspecified programs, or perhaps programs accounting for a tiny proportion of the federal budget. That is the stage of the cycle we are currently in. Then Republicans obtain power and have to confront the fact that most spending programs are popular, and so they must choose between destroying their own popularity by taking on programs like Medicare, or failing to materially cut spending. So they settle on tax cuts instead of spending cuts. Then eventually their supporters conclude that they have been betrayed by their leaders, and cast about for new leaders with the willpower to really cut spending this time.


Chart of the day

Via Yglesias:

Let’s be really clear here (especially in following up on my previous post): Americans are not rejecting Democrats and becoming more favorable towards Republicans.  They are simply rejecting Democrats period.  It just so happens that Republicans– who Americans don’t actually particularly like– happen to be the only alternative to the Democrats at a time when many people feel they simply have to vote against the party in power due to economic frustrations.  That’s it.

How to mis-interpret a poll

So, the NYT has a new poll and the headline is all about how “The Obama coalition is fraying.”

Critical parts of the coalition that delivered President Obama to the White House in 2008 and gave Democrats control of Congress in 2006 are switching their allegiance to the Republicans in the final phase of the midterm Congressional elections, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Catholics, young people, women, are all less likely to vote for Democratsin 2010 as compared to 2008.  Hello– everybody is less likely to vote for Democrats this time around.  Furthermore, telling me that women are less supportive of Democrats in 2010 than in 2008 doesn’t really tell me anything.  If womens’ support for Democrats dropped off more than mens’ support did, that would actually tell me something.  Of course, the report does not contain that or similar comparisons.

Furthermore, while the “groups” may be “switching their allegiances” this is very mis-leading, as it suggests that all these women, young people, etc., are moving from Democratic to Republican.  Much more likely– as this is all based on “likely voters” is that those persons pre-disposed to Obama and the Democrats will be disproportionately staying home on election day.  It’s really not that complicated– I expect a little more out of the Times.

Obama as Herbert Hoover

I found this recent column from the New Yorker’s Hendrik Hertzberg really helps put Obama’s position in perspective.  When FDR came into the White House, the Great Depression was already over three years old.  When Obama came in, the bad times were just starting– he’s been here for the fall.  Sure, Obama has tried to do much more than Hoover, but when the economy suffers most of its collapse under your presidency, your going to get the blame regardless of why it happened.   In many ways, I think this excerpt really tells you pretty much all you need to know about Obama’s popularity as president:

Under Bush, the wages and incomes of average families actually declined. But when Obama declared his candidacy, in February of 2007, unemployment—the most politically salient of economic numbers—was below five per cent. When he accepted the Democratic nomination, in August of 2008, it was still “only” 6.1 per cent. When Lehman went under, it was 6.2 per cent. Only after the Democrats won the election did the full impact of the disaster kick in. On Inauguration Day, the jobless rate was 7.7 per cent. A month later, when President Obama signed the stimulus bill, unemployment was 8.2 per cent, and by the end of the year it was in double figures. The most recent report, for September, puts it at 9.6 per cent.

Of course, without the stimulus, that unemployment figure would have probably fallen far worse– to about 12% or so– but in the real world politicians just don’t get credit for seeing only one million jobs lost instead of two million.   Anyway, when it comes time to explain the midterm election results on Wednesday, I’ll be thinking about those figures above as much as anything.

Stop voting for judges

Of course if you have judges on the ballot for your election (as I do) you should inform youself and make the best choice possible, but the truth is having judge as an elected office is not good for judges or for justice.  If there was one thing all the students in my criminal justice class could agree upon at the end of the semester, it was that electing judges is no way to have a criminal justice system.  Radley Balko nicely spins this out (and more) in a Reason column:

But there is one change that could at least stop the bleeding: less democracy. As New York Timesreporter 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 thinkscrime is getting worse.

In response to these fears, legislators have increasingly eroded the discretion of prosecutors and judges (already subject to political pressures) in charging defendants and imposing sentences. Under the theory that more punishment is always better, lawmakers have imposed mandatory minimum sentences, made parole and probation more difficult, and decreed that mere possession of drugs above a certain quantity is automatically treated as distribution. The democratic demand for such policies may be clearest in California, where it is relatively easy to pass legislation through ballot initiatives. Such initiatives have led to some of the toughest crime policies in the country—andnearly twice as many prisoners as the state’s prisons are supposed to hold.




On live music

Went to see Muse on Tuesday night with my lovely wife in a last blast of fun before becoming parents of 4 (due date around Thanksgiving).  After parking and all, the cost came out well over $100, but damn was it worth it.  I think a band like Muse (which just really rocks) is ideally suited to enjoy live rather than on a CD/mp3.  And there’s definitely something to sharing an experience with thousands of other people who really love the same music.  Songs that I like when normally listening to, I loved performed live.  E.g.,

It also seems wrong to be that Muse can fill Wembley stadium, but only draw <10,000 in the RBC Center whereas I’m sure Justin Bieber can fill the place up.

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