Ross Douthat writes that the public's memory of President George W. Bush will prevent Obama from being Hooverized by the lousy economy and that Pawlenty's tax plan will be a general election liability. Here's what I think:
Douthat is partly right, but I don't think that blaming Bush helps more than a little. Obama's situation would be worse if the Great Recession and the financial crisis had occurred entirely during Obama's term. People recognize that Obama didn't personally cause the downturn. But that has limited relevance in a general election context. Swing voters can probably keep the following two thoughts in their heads simultaneously: a) Bush was a lousy President and b) Obama might not be as bad, but he is still doing a lousy job and we still need a new President. And it isn't just swing voters. Obama's job approval on the economy is 41%. Short of some calamity, Obama will almost certainly get more than 41% in next year's election. Whatever they think of Bush, even some Democratic-leaning voters don't like the job Obama is doing on the economy. Memories of Bush won't be any clearer in November 2012 than they were when Republicans were making large gains in November 2010. If the labor market stays where it is (or God forbid gets worse), Romney's line that "He [Obama] didn't create the recession, but he made it worse and longer" will have resonance and "Bush started it" won't be enough of a response. To the extent the labor market improves, the force of Romney's charge will weaken.
I generally share Douthat's concerns about Pawlenty's tax plan (and especially its relationship to his spending plans) but I hope to get to that tomorrow.
Ron Brownstein argues that the Republican presidential candidates have:
coalesced around an economic agenda that will propose sharper reductions in federal taxes, spending, and regulation than the party has offered in decades. That convergence will diminish the role of ideology in the nomination contest--but then increase it in the general election.
There is some truth to that, but the way the CNN Republican debate was moderated tended to amplify this tendency. It doesn't make much sense to ask a question about repealing Obamacare. They're all for repealing Obamacare. Making it about Obamacare or how to repeal Obamacare creates a situation where the candidates compete to be the "real" conservative not through their policy preferences, but through self-marketing. One candidate says he will repeal Obamacare on his first day as President. Another candidate says she was the first member of the House of Representatives to introduce a repeal of Obamacare. Luckily no one has cut off a finger to demonstrate their sincere desire to repeal Obamacare. Yet.
The debates would be better (for viewers, and for the general election chances of the Republican Party probably - but not for the comfort of the candidates) if the debate questions focused on how particular policies would affect individuals and subgroups. It would be more useful and more interesting to see how much (if any) the Pawlenty tax plan saves middle-class families vs. the Romney tax plan vs. the Bachmann tax plan. It would be interesting to learn how much more they expect seniors to pay out of pocket due to their Medicare reforms and why (along with other health care reforms) this might be a good thing in the end. This could set off some interesting scrums among the candidates and these are also going to be the kinds of questions that the Republican presidential candidate will face in the general election - where the swing voters won't care about who is the realest real conservative.
From Ronald Seavoy's classic The Origins of the American Business Corporation. (A book on a subject that ought to occupy more time in our history classes). After the American Revolution, as the State of New York passed a law allowing religious congregations to incorporate (a step necessary to allow them to own land):
A mortmain clause, limiting the amount of land a congregation could own, was added to prevent the accumulation of real property in immobile corporate hands. Thereafter, some form of mortmain restriction as placed in almost all charters of benevolent societies. This was a legal carry-over from England where mortmain clauses were designed to prevent the accumulation of land in the hands of churches and other charitable organizations.
I wonder if we, in modern America, should consider restoring that a like restriction on all tax-free entities. Perpetuities are problematic in a democratic-republic. As the endowments of our major Universites and colleges grow, along with our major foundations, it reduces our tax base. Business corporations must compete to survive. Hence that concern does not apply. But charitable trusts can be forever. Since we don't have the feudal law here (at least in most cases), it would probably have to take a different form than the old restriction.
As I understand the law, (and I may very well be wrong here), charitable institutions have some key advantages in the market. If they don't pay capital gains taxes on trades, for example, they can be much more efficient traders of stocks and other assets. Similarly, if they don't pay real estate taxes, they can drive for profit landlords out of the market by charging less rent for like apartments. When relatively little wealth is off the tax books, that's not a real problem. As more and more is held by charities, it could become a problem. More generally, the lack of competition makes long-term ownership by charitable entities very different than ownership by business corporations.
Perhaps we could just require that charitable foundations spend more than the current 5% per year of their endowments (and change the way that 5% is counted). It would make sense to exempt land that was used directly by charities (such as church and school buildings), but not other lands, etc.
like you were expecting better,
1. The questions were wretched, and not just the dumb ones about Leno, pizza and Dancing With The Stars. The questions were generally too easy. We already knew they were going to say they wanted to cut taxes and repeal Obamacare. They should have been asked about the distributional impact of their tax policies. Sample question: "How will your plan change the tax liabilities of a family of four earning $60,000 a year with a mortgage of 200,0000?" Those who supported the Ryan PTP's Medicare reforms should have been asked how much more they expect that seniors will have to pay out of pocket in the coming decades. Those are the kinds of questions that they are going to have to answer in the general election. It would be nice to see if they can hit the fastballs the Obama campaign will surely be throwing at them. There might also be some Republican-leaning middle-income voters and future Medicare beneficiaries who would be interested to hear the answers to such questions.
2. Most of the candidates seem to be running on a version of John McCain's program of business and investment tax cuts with not much to say to middle-income voters except that a promise of tax cuts to other people will help everyone in the end. That is just an impression from the debate. There was a lot more talk about capital gains tax cuts than middle-class tax relief. Ramesh Ponnuru offers an alternative tax agenda.
3. The most recent employment report formed the context for the debate in an unhealthy way. They all seemed to be running for the presidential election of next week. They sounded like Sharron Angle. No, not the crazy stuff about "Second Amendment remedies" if she didn't get her own way. It was like whenever Angle couldn't say anything persuasive she would just circle back to Nevada's unemployment and foreclosure rates. By itself, that wasn't good enough to win in a state with a 13% unemployment rate. Even if the labor market remains exactly where it is, the Republicans could still lose if they are tagged as simply the party of capital gains tax cuts + Medicare cuts + hey willya look at the unemployment rate.
4. Then again, we could be heading for another financial crisis.
5. Lots of the talk is about Pawlenty whiffing on the Obamneycare question, Pawlenty had a pretty bad debate even without that answer. He appeared tentative and stammered multiple times. Pawlenty isn't necessarily doomed. Some candidates have a learning curve when it comes to debates. George W. Bush was visibly nervous in the first Republican debate of the 2000 cycle but he was cleaning McCain's clock in head-to-head debates by the end (Keyes was there for some of them but they ignored him.) Bush never became an all time great debater but he went to school and got the most out of his talent. There is a good section in Stuart Stevens' The Big Enchilada about how Bush prepared for his debates with Al Gore. Practice doesn't make perfect, but it can make some politicians significantly better.
What is more disturbing is that Pawlenty weaseled regarding "Obamneycare" in almost the same way that he weaseled on waterboarding in the first debate. Both times he tried to avoid being pinned down (either on standing up for his Obamneycare formulation or taking a firm position on use of waterboarding.) Both times he caved in to follow up questions and took a stand, but only after looking both evasive (since he had to be hounded into giving a direct answer) and weak (for knuckling under to the questioner.) What is the point of this approach? It has all of the downsides of taking a firm stand while forfeiting the respect due to someone who takes a forthright stand.
6. Romney looked and sounded good. Maybe he has gotten better since 2008. Maybe it is just that he didn't have to fend off the withering attacks of McCain and Huckabee. I hate to think that this a group with weaker debating skills than the Republican presidential field of 2008.
Refine & Enlarge
"Whereas, NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Dirk Nowitzki chose to re-sign with the Dallas Mavericks in the summer of 2010, forgoing free agency and keeping his talents in Dallas, thus remaining loyal to the team, city and fans for whom he played his entire career"
Literature, Poetry, and Books
I missed the twenty minutes or so on foreign policy but...
1. Romney looked so relieved that Huckabee and McCain weren't there to kick him up and down the stage.
2. I hope the five non-liberal Supreme Court Justices are training, saying their prayers, and eating their vitamins.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) announced Monday night that she has filed the necessary paperwork to run for the presidency in 2012.
Bachmann is likely to be the most surprising candidate in the next election. I continue to augur that she'll end up as the GOP VP candidate - and play a kingmaker role between Pawlenty and Romney (ultimately opting for the former).
Many will call it Palin Redux - and the media will hope to smear her with the same shameful efficiency. I hope she hones her rhetorical skills. As far as I've seen, she's not yet equal to the task of crossing swords with a malicious media. But dismiss her popularity and potential at your own risk. I suspect she'll play a historic role in the election.
This one seems right out of the latest X-Men film.
Scientists have merged light-emitting proteins from jellyfish with a single human cell to create a unique first: a living, biological laser.
[Scientists] pictures a future where cells could even "self lase" from within the body's tissue.
It's a brave new world - with all the ominous connotations.
So I was scrolling through Alyssa Rosenberg's ThinkProgress blog when I read that Clarence Clemons has suffered a stroke. Only as the text was scrolling by, my mind interpreted it as "Clarence Thomas has suffered a stroke."
I panicked. Then I scrolled back up and read it right. I'm very sorry for Mr. Clemons' illness.
Just a reminder of the importance of the 2012 presidential election. Who wants to bet that Justices Alito, Scalia, Roberts, Thomas, and Kennedy will stay on the Court for another five and a half years? Me neither.
By Rich Fisher, via The Rational Optimist:
One German organic farm has killed twice as many people as the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the Gulf Oil spill combined.
Ashbrook is bursting with bright young minds exercising their creativity conservative credentials - and NLT readers are an extraordinarily diverse and learned group of scholars. Power Line has announced a contest to which our community is peculiarly suited.
The Power Line Prize of $100,000 will be awarded to whoever can most effectively and creatively dramatize the significance of the federal debt crisis. Prizes will also be awarded to the runner-up and two third-place finishers. Anyone can enter the contest--individuals, companies (e.g., advertising agencies) or any other entity, as long as the contest rules are followed. Any creative product is eligible: videos, songs, paintings, screenplays, Power Point presentations, essays, performance art, or anything else, as long as the product is unique to the contest and has not previously been published or otherwise entered the public domain. Entries may address the federal debt crisis in its entirety, or a specific aspect of the debt crisis, such as: the impact of the debt crisis on the young; the role played by the "stimulus" (Where did the money go? Why didn't it stimulate?); how entitlements drive the debt crisis; the current federal deficit; how the debt crisis impacts the economy; or any other aspect of the debt crisis. The contest is non-partisan. Its purpose is to inform the public about the federal debt crisis. Entries are due no later than 11:59 p.m. on July 15th. See the official contest rules for more information. In all instances, the contest rules govern.
Someone's going to win. If its one of our own, I'll be very proud of you ... if you remember that I reserve a 10% finder's fee!