Why public opinion drives me crazy

Greg Sargent highlights the utter incoherence about Obama and the economy:

Here’s a striking disconnect that speaks volumes about Obama’s political problem right now…

The poll finds that only 37 percent approve of Obama’s handling of the economy, versus 59 percent who disapprove.

It also finds that only 31 percent are “extremely confident” or “quite confident” that the President has the right goals and policies to improve the economy, versus a whopping 68 percent who are only somewhat or not at all confident.

But then the pollsters ask about the policies themselves. And here’s what they find:

— A solid majority (60 percent) supports reducing the deficit by ending the Bush tax cuts for the rich.

— A solid majority (56 percent) supports reducing the deficit through a combination of tax increases and spending cuts.

— Only 37 percent support the GOP’s solution to the deficit, i.e., reducing it only through spending cuts with no tax hikes on the rich or corporations.

— A plurality supports a federally funded roads construction bill to create jobs, 47-26, which is similar to what Obama is expected to propose in his jobs speech.

— A plurality supports continuing to extend unemployment benefits, 44-39.

— A plurality supports an extension of the payroll tax cut, 40-20.

To paraphrase Howard Dean– yeeearrgghhh!!  Not that I’m all surprised by this, but still, frustrating.  Sure they disapprove of the economy, but then to have no confidence that Obama has the right policies when they are the very ones the public favors is just too much.

Which regulations?

After reading various GOP claptrap about how we just need to provide certainty and reduce government regulations (hey, wait a second, what about all that uncertainty that comes from not knowing which regulations we’ll get rid of), I stopped to wonder which regulations.  Oddly enough, the Republicans never say.  Oh wait, the “job-killing regulations.”  Of course I’m sure we could trade in some “job-killing” regulations for some “people-killing degregulation” (hmmm, maybe Dems should message that).  Is it the clean air regulations we should eliminate so that lung diseases go up?  Clean water?  Safe food?  Safe working conditions?  Imagine all the business profits and new jobs if businesses didn’t have to worry about silly little things like workers getting limbs cut off on the job!  Maybe its those pesky “environmental regulations.”  Good thing that human life doesn’t actually have any use for a save and clean environment.

Of course, then, the real reason is that, like much in politics there’s a huge disconnect between the abstract and the concrete, and once again, Republicans use this to their advantage.  The American people make be against “regulations,” but the reason that the vast majority of them are there in the first place is that once you get specific, the American people actually want these regulations.

A new war on birth control?

With conservatives in a never-ending attempt to out-conservative each other these days, apparently its not enough to be against abortion.  Now the in-thing is to be against birth control.  Do they really want to go there?  Yes.  From NPR’s Shots blog:

These days, more and more voices are opposing the provision of birth control for its own sake.

“They’ve called it preventative medicine. Preventative medicine,” said Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, on the House floor last month, shortly after the Obama administration adopted the recommendations of an expert panel and agreed to add contraceptives to a list of services insurance plans will be required to provide without a deductible or copayment. “Well, if you apply that preventative medicine universally, what you end up with is you’ve prevented a generation. Preventing babies from being born is not medicine.”

Some opponents, like conservative commentator Sandy Rios, say subsidizing birth control is simply too expensive in an era of tight budgets. “We have $14 trillion in debt, and now we’re going to cover birth control?” she said on Fox News, adding, “Are we going to do pedicures and manicures as well? I think that would be a good idea.”

Others, such as Jeffrey Kuhner, president of the conservative Edmund Burke Institute, say birth control is no less than an affront to God. “In short, liberals want to create a world without God and sexual permissiveness is their battering ram. Promoting widespread contraception is essential to forging a pagan society based on consequence-free sex,” he wrote in an opinion piece for the Washington Times.

1) Right.  We’re really going to prevent a whole generation.  Most people who use birth control reproduce– it’s just that they decide when.

2) You know what’s more expensive than subsidizing birth control?  Subsidizing pregnancy and childbirth.

3) Damn, they’re onto us.  It’s the creeping Paganism.  You know what’s really an affront to God– if we can trust his own words– an utter disregard for the poor and needy.

4) If Republicans want to go down this road– more power to them– talk about a political loser:

But while calls to end federal funding for contraception may be on the rise, the public remains strongly on the other side, at least for now. A survey released last week by the Kaiser Family Foundation found two-thirds of respondents in favor of the new requirement for insurance plans to offer prescription birth control without a copay or deductible.

And that’s support for public funding– support for birth control period is surely even higher.

The state of Politics in America in one mid-length essay

If you follow one link on my blog this month, make it this one.  Seriously.  A former (and clearly disgruntled) Republican Congressional staffer diagnoses the contemporary political scene– especially how the Republican party is eating the Democrats’ lunch, and what Republicans really believe.  It’s an amazing tour-de-force that hits virtually every point I’ve mentioned on my blog in recent years– the role of the media and journalists, Republican willingness to violate longstanding norms, the ideological fealty to low taxes for rich people above all else.   I’ve never heard of Truthout before and I feel like it’s a shame that this is where the essay was published as it really deserves a wider audience– something like the New Yorker or the NYT Magazine.   There’s honestly at least a dozen great excerpts I could go with, but I’ll go with this one, as I believe it is an overarching theme for much of what Republicans are doing:

In his “Manual of Parliamentary Practice,” Thomas Jefferson wrote that it is less important that every rule and custom of a legislature be absolutely justifiable in a theoretical sense, than that they should be generally acknowledged and honored by all parties. These include unwritten rules, customs and courtesies that lubricate the legislative machinery and keep governance a relatively civilized procedure. The US Senate has more complex procedural rules than any other legislative body in the world; many of these rules are contradictory, and on any given day, the Senate parliamentarian may issue a ruling that contradicts earlier rulings on analogous cases.

The only thing that can keep the Senate functioning is collegiality and good faith. During periods of political consensus, for instance, the World War II and early post-war eras, the Senate was a “high functioning” institution: filibusters were rare and the body was legislatively productive. Now, one can no more picture the current Senate producing the original Medicare Act than the old Supreme Soviet having legislated the Bill of Rights.

Far from being a rarity, virtually every bill, every nominee for Senate confirmation and every routine procedural motion is now subject to a Republican filibuster. Under the circumstances, it is no wonder that Washington is gridlocked: legislating has now become war minus the shooting, something one could have observed 80 years ago in the Reichstag of the Weimar Republic. As Hannah Arendt observed, a disciplined minority of totalitarians can use the instruments of democratic government to undermine democracy itself…

A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress’s generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner.

It goes on to link this to the role of the media in refusing to call this out.  Seriously, just read the whole thing (I’ll be watching my site stats for clicks, don’s disappoint me).  It may take 5-10 minutes, but it is worth it.

Do people actually buy all this GOP “certainty” BS?

Seriously?  After all these years, the Republicans have unlocked the secret to economic growth… why it’s certainty!  Why didn’t anybody think of that before?  If only Republicans didn’t have to always share power with Democrats who like to make policy via lottery ping pong balls, imagine how awesome our country would be!  Romney’s “sweeping” (according the Post) new economic vision essentially boils down to:

Speaking under a banner that read, “Day One, Job One,” inside a sweltering North Las Vegas truck warehouse, Romney laid out 10 actions he said he would take on his first day in the Oval Office that would create more certainty for businesses.

They would include five proposed bills that would: lower the corporate tax rate to 25 percent from 35 percent; implement free-trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea; expand domestic energy exploration; consolidate worker retraining programs and turn them over to the states; and cut non-security discretionary spending by 5 percent. (Obama also supports those three trade agreements, although he has been accused of dithering to satisfy the demands of organized labor.)

If elected, the former Massachusetts governor said he would also issue five executive orders on Inauguration Day. They would roll back President Obama’s health-care overhaul; eliminate Obama-era regulations; issue new oil-drilling permits; sanction China for currency manipulation; and reverse a number of policies that favor organized labor.

Riiiiight.  If only not for all those crazy new Obama regulations, we’d have been having 5% growth the past couple years.  Oh, and a lower corporate tax cut and better trade deal with Panama.  Stupid Democrats, if only they’d realized.  But, the real key is that finally Mitt Romney will give us certainty.

“Restoring clarity and predictability are essential for igniting hiring and investment,” Romney wrote in an introduction to the plan, which he titled “Believe in America.”

Of course the fact that there’s zero evidence that uncertainty about the regulatory environment is responsible for our current economic woes shouldn’t get in the way of Fox News saying so 24/7.  The real uncertainty out there that actually is harmful is the uncertainty as to whether Tea Party Republicans in the House are actually willing to blow up the economy in order to stay true to their misguided principles.

Anyway, just kind of amazing the way this whole “certainty” absurdity has taken over GOP Talking Points this year.  I’ll be quite curious to see whether it actually resonates in a general election campaign.  Though I’m sure Republican voters will eat it up after being told so long that this is what ails us.  I’m just waiting for one my students to make this argument.  Fortunately, hasn’t happened yet.

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