Monday, November 17, 2014

Sunset at Quincy


Some stuff.

Krugman: When Government Succeeds
Republicans set their hair on fire when it came to Ebola in America (no outbreak), green energy programs (turned a profit), the deficit (falling fast) and Obamacare (working, containing costs, and people like it). Question really is: Why are they still taken seriously? (cynical answer: ratings and clicks)

The moral of these stories is not that the government is always right and always succeeds. Of course there are bad decisions and bad programs. But modern American political discourse is dominated by cheap cynicism about public policy, a free-floating contempt for any and all efforts to improve our lives. And this cheap cynicism is completely unjustified. It’s true that government-hating politicians can sometimes turn their predictions of failure into self-fulfilling prophecies, but when leaders want to make government work, they can.

Playing Politics With Tar Sands Oil
Right on cue, here's another ongoing Big Lie from Republicans, still in progress. Tar sands oil from Keystone will not bring us energy independence or create thousands of permanent jobs. Democrats have turned this into a "both sides" in a doomed attempt to save Landrieu - and this comes after numerous ads across the country during election season that trumpeted D candidates as protectors of the environment. Branding, undermined, big time.

They are almost entirely acts of political theater, designed in the House to favor the extractive industries, and in the Senate to prop up the troubled runoff election campaign of Mary Landrieu, a Democrat and co-sponsor of the Senate bill who is desperate to claim credit for getting the pipeline approved.

How Badly Do Republicans Want Tax Reform? (Maybe Not That Badly)
On deck for the next misdirection: Tax reform. But that's for next year.

The answer depends, it would seem, on the tender emotions of Republicans, who are already complaining that tax reform might have to be scrapped if Obama is mean to them. While the president seems capable of fighting his opposition on one issue and negotiating with them on another, so far Republicans are acting like some moody toddler, ready to start bawling and breaking toys at the first hint of frustration.

Inequality, Unbelievably, Gets Worse
Wall Street guy and auto industry savior Steve Rattner notices that our low, low, low taxes are too low, and are exacerbating the income inequality problem.

That’s because our taxes, while progressive, are low by international standards and our social welfare programs — ranging from unemployment benefits to disability insurance to retirement payments — are consequently less generous. Conservatives may bemoan the size of our government; in reality, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, total tax revenues in the United States this year will be smaller on a relative basis than those of any other member country.

Blow: Partisanship Breaks the Government
Republicans were rewarded for malfeasance. Expect more of the same. Broken government is the goal.

While these battles may offer some ephemeral partisan gain — mostly for Republicans — they will suppress support for all three branches of government and further diminish public faith in the efficacy of government as a whole. According to a June poll by Gallup, “Americans’ confidence in all three branches of the U.S. government has fallen, reaching record lows for the Supreme Court (30 percent) and Congress (7 percent), and a six-year low for the presidency (29 percent).” While the blood sport of these clashes is likely to enthrall pundits and policy wonks, I fear that it won’t be good for the republic — particularly Democrats.

The Harder Part
George Packer notices the mandate to posture.

When the Republicans talk about proving that they can govern, they don’t mean that they intend to solve the country’s core problems. The bills that the leadership has vowed to bring to the floor include corporate tax reform, fast-track trade agreements, construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, and a repeal of the tax on medical devices. Most of these proposals are marginal enough to betray a tactical mind-set: the purpose is not to address important issues but to corner the President with bipartisan votes and improve the G.O.P.’s image ahead of 2016.

Republicans have no incentive to moderate or govern
David Atkins wonders if the press will keep giving the Rs a pass in the pursuit of horserace coverage. Unlike the cons election victories, press ratings are falling like a rock and they might want to sing a new tune eventually.

The self-evident thesis of respected political scientists Mann and Ornstein that Republicans have become singularly extreme over the last few decades has been met with stunning silence by centrist press institutions. Meanwhile, five-alarm fire issues like climate change and record inequality receive little attention because they’re not ones on which Tip-n-Ronnie style bipartisanship in a lunch meeting hammered out by McCain, Hagel and Lieberman will save the day.

Obama pursues a can-do approach
Mild-mannered EJ Dionne Jr. says "go for it."

In truth, he is paying close attention to the feelings of a very important group of voters — the tens of millions who supported him two years ago but were so dispirited that they stayed away from the polls on Nov. 4. They are hoping Obama will show them that political engagement is worth the effort. Republicans did a brilliant job in the campaign playing on the idea that Obama is weak, passive and without a game plan. That was the not-so-hidden meaning of all their television ads about the Islamic State, Ebola and immigration. So Obama has made clear that he won’t be weak and passive and that he has a game plan.

How Republicans Co-Opted Populism
Again, if Democrats don't take a Warrenesque approach to economics and government benefits, Republicans will. You saw hints of it in the campaign. Get in front of this, now.

A common attack was a 2010 throwback: Obamacare cut your Medicare... Less bogus but still hypocritical were the Social Security attacks done by the National Republican Congressional Committee on Democrats who had expressed support for the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan... Republicans, who supposedly hate class warfare, were also not above excoriating Democrats simply because of their personal wealth.

Still reeling, Democrats debate big-money strategy
Rarely is it asked, "Are our Dem operatives learning?" You can look at this list of takeaways from the election and go "Duh!" I would quibble on the "lost causes" category - you must compete everywhere. To ignore a top race is to ignore everything connected, i.e., bottom of the ticket, to that race. (I would point to MI-03 as a great example. A better challenge to Amash, maybe we don't lose our progressive mayor.) Even nominal amounts will force Rs to respond, and divert their focus/resources.

Top operatives said that many Democrats decided at the start of this past cycle to avoid a national economic message because voters weren’t necessarily feeling the positive effects of the country’s recovery from the Great Recession. In hindsight, however, many believe outside groups and campaigns should have emphasized the difference between Democratic and Republican economic policies.

One of the problems of '14: The targeting was too targeted. Every ad featured older white people and their issues. Became obvious after awhile, and neglected the rest of the electorate. If you needed non or casual voters to turn out, why didn't you address them?

Why Hillary 2016 Thinks She Can Expand Obama's Electoral Map
All of the above may not matter. For all the hand-wringing about Dems losing white folk, we forget why the term "Bubba vote" was coined in the first place.

Clinton has a record of appealing to white working-class voters -- especially women -- and they could be enough when paired with the Obama coalition to pull out a win.

Take nothing for granted.