Sunday, November 09, 2008

Mankiw Keeps Chipping Away

Harvard Economist Gregory Mankiw-a former advisor to Gov. Mitt Romney's Presidential bid-continues to push the oh-so-popular Republican economic policies.

In today's New York Times, the professor has some advice to President-elect Obama. Had he simply copied one of the memos he sent to Romney and-from the looks of the policy proposals-the McCain campaign, he could have saved some ink.

His list is quick: embrace McCain's health care tax rebate, look at shrinking Social Security and Medicare in order to increase available funds, and support the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (which he includes in his "Recognize Past Mistakes" category).

Yet his laundry list excludes any explanation why these golden ideas have failed to gain real traction.

The first of several straw men is Obama's supposed opposition to "Senator John McCain’s proposal to reform the tax code to include a refundable health insurance tax credit". As anyone who remembers the Presidential campaign we just went through might mention is that Obama opposed McCain's decision to tax health benefits provided to employees by their employers. The tax credit-which would only have covered a portion of what the employee would have to pay for an equivalent policy in the individual market-was merely the sugar coating a poison pill. The real point of the plan, of course, is not to provide better coverage, but to eliminate employer-provided health care. 

The second piece of advice is to tackle Social Security and Medicare before the Baby Boomers strain it to breaking. He apparently has forgotten President Bush's bruising run-in with that train. Much of that "crisis" is as phony as the proposed Republican solution-privatization. Certainly some tweaking-either increasing the tax, increasing the retirement age, or reducing payouts-will help ensure the solvency, but given that the predicting tipping-point seems to recede into the distance every year, there are far more useful expenditures of political capital.

The third is actually a purposeful misrepresentation of Obama's, and other Democrats, opposition to the Dominical-Republic Central American Free Trade Agreement. Democrats have tried for years to ensure stronger labor and environmental rules are included in the agreements. Rules the Republican party has refused to support.

Certainly different economists will disagree on how to best tackle the economic issue facing the country, but like anything else it doesn't benefit anyone to simply drop a few tid-bits while keeping the real detains cloaked. 

- Murphy

Whats the matter with Alaska?

Lots of questions in Alaska. Reported turnout falls short of 2000 and 2004 levels despite a record turnout for the Presidential Primary in the spring. That and none of the pre-election polling numbers held up; including Rassmussen which was accurate in calling every other Senate race it polled.

Alaskan officials are left scratching their heads, reports the Washington Post.

- Murphy

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Monster Mash

Paul Krugman succinctly describes the shift the voters' rejection of Sen. McCain and the Bush wing of the party implies.

Last night wasn’t just a victory for tolerance; it wasn’t just a mandate for progressive change; it was also, I hope, the end of the monster years.

An administration that embraced torture, spied on its own people and misused the levers of power to maintain its control deserves such invective. As the next few years progress, and the people who have been reticent to pipe up out of fear of retribution begin to pass along their stories, the Bush administration's place in history will be thrown in sharp relief. 

Such a sharp blend of incompetence and maliciousness will hopefully never again roam the halls of power.

- Murphy

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Left's Secret Weapon

That would of course be academia...

Tenured Radicals Coming Home to Roost? [Andy McCarthy]
Preliminary indications are that the youth vote (ages 18-29) was way up: an increase of somewhere over 2.2 million (maybe way over) from 2004 (a year in which it was very high), and as much as 13% over 2000. The Left's dominance of the academy is now having a material impact on electoral politics. As we think about the future of conservatism, we ignore that at our peril.
Roger Kimball's new edition of Tenured Radicals seems like an excellent starting point for that urgent discussion.
11/05 03:21 PM

Despite the regularity of this claim (it is usually combined with some knowledge of an effort to drum conservatives off campus. Oddly, it seems the business schools seem to often be the recipient of a substantial administrative attention) McCarthy may be correct in that the conservative movement stands to lose major ground in the future, based mostly on demographics.

Often voters absorb the political winds of the time they grow up in, and generally stay with the party they begin voting for. 

The youth vote went substantially in President-elect Obama's favor, about 70% to 30% for 18-29. Those voters are likely to continue to trend in this same direction. In 2000 the youth split between Sen. Gore and Gov. Bush, 48% to 46% with Ralph Nader picking up the difference. In 2004, the youth vote went to Sen. Kerry with 54% to President Bush's 45%. 

So, in 8 years the size of the vote increased as well as the percentage voting Democrat. That can't be comforting for McCarthy and others.

As for the impact of college, that's still up in the air. About 1/2 of the 18-29 year-olds in America did not attend college. But of those who voted in this year's primaries, 79% attended college. 

So at best, we can be sure that college attendance boosts voting, but given the election night outcome, is the increase in youth votes for Democrats a natural reflection of a changing country? 

- Murphy

The Campaign You Get.... the campaign you deserve.

The McCain campaign stumbled across the finish line last night and barely had time to grab a drink before it was waylaid by a bus. 

Even in the final hours of the campaign the two camps-the Palin and McCain camps that is-were continuing to take shots at each other through leaks to the press. The blood-letting there still continues, this time more on the record (Laura Rozen of War and Piece calls it, "Sheesh. The stuff of sit-com. If not of governing.")

The two sides are trying to lay blame for who hobbled an already shaky campaign, McCain or Palin. Yet the two are inextricably intertwined. 

Palin will go down as one of the least viable candidates ever added to a major-party ticket. Her inexperience and inexplicable ability to view the world will mark her as either kryptonite for the reasonable world, or the choice of the far right for 2012.

McCain himself, however, has only himself to blame for foisting the Alaskan albatross on the Republican party. His blind roll of the dice doomed what little chance he had with moderate America. At that point his attacks and desperate pleas of acceptance to the right-wing of the party had already taken the shine off the memory of John McCain most moderate and independent voters had of him from the 2000 Presidential campaign. But many were likely to begrudge the man a bit of gamesmanship in his ambition. 

Unfortunately for McCain, Palin was the nail and his own erratic and deconstructive response to the fiscal calamity befalling the country was the hammer that sealed the coffin on his campaign. 

There were a dozen little things that helped take out the tires on the "Straight Talk Express" (the complete reversals of position, the lack of discipline, zero message, a dismissal if not a disdain for practical policy ideas, the lack of money, to name a few). 

However, I prefer to believe that the voters were registering a rejection of what Palin and McCain stood for-an unserious campaign running on smears and fear in a time in which the American public were hyperaware of their desire for serious leadership. In challenging times the public wants someone who can offer them a solution, a way forward, or a future. Simply dredging the bottoms for the next missile won't cut it.

- Murphy

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Obama and McCain Trade Leads in Missouri

In the post-primary season Sen. John McCain held a fairly consistent lead across the various polls with some tightening as November progressed, from 5 to 2-3 points. 

However, October has shown a significant shift, with Obama trending ahead of McCain in the state. Obama's lead is approximate to the lead McCain had entering October.

It's a result that makes this state a dead heat. While the Obama campaign might be happy to see the spread move through the margin of error in their favor, it gives them no assurance of squeezing out a victory.

The McCain campaign, however, can not be pleased. In 2004 President George W. Bush trounced Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) by seven percentage points.

What must also give them pause is that the Democratic candidate for Governor, the popular Attorney Jay Nixon, has a double digit lead over his Republican opponent, Rep. Kenny Hulshoff. The two are vying to replace an unpopular Republican governor-Gov. Matt Blunt-who is bowing out of running for a second term (his reason; that he has achieved all he sought to achieve in one term. The real reason? Speculation is about as rampant as the number of commenters on political websites). 

- Murphy