Romney and the economy

Ed Kilgore has an interesting piece in TNR about how the faltering economy might actually be bad for Romney.  I happen to think his analysis is spot-on.  The crux:

If Romney wins the Republican presidential nomination, bad economic news will, of course, help him against Barack Obama, though that would be true of any GOP nominee. Perhaps it would help Romney even more, however, because his background makes him a plausible economic “pragmatist” who takes ideological oaths with a wink and crossed fingers. But will bad economic news help Romney win the Republican nomination? Don’t count on it…

Finally, continued bad economic news could undermine Romney’s most important asset (aside from money) in the nomination contest: the possibility that early caucuses and primaries could create a fight between Romney and one or two opponents perceived as being “unelectable” against Barack Obama (e.g., Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin, or Herman Cain). To put it bluntly, any development—including a struggling economy—that weakens Barack Obama’s standing going into 2012 also reduces the willingness of conservatives to accept a nominee they really don’t like in the name of electability. Romney will do best if Republicans think they must have him to win. In a worsening economy, it will be much easier for them to vote with their hearts, none of which belong to Mitt.

I think that’s exactly right and one of the reasons I consider Bachmann to actually be a credible candidate this go-round.  Truth is, if the economy is bad enough, pretty much anybody can beat Obama, and on some level Republicans know that.  Of course, what I’m hoping is that they overlearn this and nominate Bachmann (or someone similar) who goes on to lose in an economic scenario in which Romney (or Pawlenty) would have won.

“A modern whiff of Jim Crow”

Quote of the day… the NY Times editorial page takes on the NC Republican legislature:

The biggest part of that effort, imposing cumbersome requirements that voters have a government ID, has been painted as a response to voter fraud, an essentially nonexistent problem. But Republican lawmakers also have taken a good look at voting patterns, realized that early voting might have played a role in Mr. Obama’s 2008 victory, and now want to reduce that possibility in 2012.

Mr. Obama won North Carolina, for example, by less than 15,000 votes. That state has had early voting since 2000, and in 2008, more ballots were cast before Election Day than on it. Mr. Obama won those early votes by a comfortable margin. So it is no coincidence that the North Carolina House passed a measure — along party lines — that would cut the early voting period by a week, reducing it to a week and a half before the election. The Senate is preparing a similar bill, which we hope Gov. Beverly Perdue, a Democrat, will veto if it reaches her.

Republicans said the measure would save money, a claim as phony as saying widespread fraud necessitates ID cards. The North Carolina elections board, and many county boards, said it would actually cost more money, because they would have to open more voting sites and have less flexibility allocating staff members. Black lawmakers called it what it is: a modern whiff of Jim Crow.

I actually think the intent is not the least bit racist in the sense that they just want to disenfranchise as many Democrats as possible– it just so happens that this means disproportionately disenfranchising Black people.  Alas, one cannot ignore the reality that you have Republicans who have taken over the legislature in a Southern state and are passing laws that without a doubt will disproportionately lead to fewer Black people voting.  Just plain wrong.

Ryan and Rand

Nice to see that Paul Ryan is getting some blowback for being such an Ayn Rand disciple.  Amy Sullivan explains:

These days, when people question a politician’s “morality,” they usually mean his or her personal behavior and choices. But an interesting thing is happening right now around the GOP budget proposal. A broad coalition of religious voices is criticizing the morality of the choices reflected in budget cuts and tax policy. And they’ve specifically targeted Ryan and his praise for Rand, the philosopher who once said she “promote[d] the ethic of selfishness.”

Across the street from the Faith & Freedom Conference Friday afternoon, a group of religious leaders continued the attack on what they now consistently refer to as “The Ayn Rand Budget.” Father Cletus Kiley, a Catholic priest, declared the Ryan budget “does not pass our test” of Catholic teachings, and suggested that supporters of the budget “drop Ayn Rand’s books and pick up their sacred texts.”

She also links to a video for an anti-Ryan ad based on Rand’s outright hostility to religion (and conventional morality) and highlighting Ryan’s support for her worldview (something that really should be seen as damn problematic for a supposedly practicing Catholic).

I think we get a little too close to a “religious test” in what we expect from our politicians, so I’m not quite 100% comfortable with the subtext here, but I do like the larger point.

More asymmetry

Given that I never miss one of Ezra’s posts, I must have seen this when it first came out, but somehow I missed actually thinking about it till a friend was showing it to his summer class today:


We here a lot about the increased polarization in Congress, but this chart fairly powerfully tells what’s really afoot.  Democrats have become modestly more liberal in recent decades whereas Republicans have become dramatically more conservative.  Also, notice that the current Republican deviation from 0 is almost .6 whereas the Democratic deviation is just under .4.  That’s a 50% difference and most definitely not a “both parties” blah, blah, blah symmetry.  Quite simply, Republicans in Congress have become much more liberal than Democrats have become Conservative.  And, if you are wondering why the steep decline in Southern Democrats, it’s because most of them are now Republicans and the ones who remain are fairly typical Democrats.

Anti-tax theology redux: the E. Coli on your veggies

So, I was listening to the Diane Rehm show yesterday about the latest E. Coli outbreak in Europe and the discussion kept coming back to the fact that we really could do a lot more to keep our fruits and vegetables safe (apparently, we’ve done quite well on meat).   Apparently, even the produce industry itself wants to pay a small tax/fee to fund a system to keep the food safer.  They realize that it is ultimately much less expensive than having Americans scared off of their products following an outbreak.  Alas, here’s where we run right into the Grover Norquist foolishness I quoted yesterday:

No good, says Norquist’s group, Americans for Tax Reform. Under the pledge, raising revenue in any way requires an equal tax cut elsewhere to avoid expanding the size of government. And, yes, that sometimes means protecting tax breaks that Republicans view as bad public policy, Norquist and his supporters say.

A few people die of E. Coli or the growers of a particular fruit or vegetable have their livelihoods totally ruined at the cost of millions of dollars to the economy?  Well, we have to stick to the principle of never increasing government revenue.  Yglesias makes a nice point about how ultimately self-defeating this is, too:

Follow the logic here. According to the Norquistian theology, a good small-government conservative can’t agree to close a tax loophole that’s bad public policy in order to entice Democrats into agreeing to spending cuts. You can’t achieve efficiency enhancing reforms to the tax code by using the prospect of enhanced revenue as a sweetener, and you can’t broaden the coalition for spending cuts by using enhanced revenue as a sweetener. So the tax code stays inefficient and the spending level stays high, all so the members of the True Faith can be unsullied in the purity of their complaints about the inefficiency of the tax code and the high level of spending.

Yep.  Absolutists and politics are generally a bad combination.

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