As the old saying goes: If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth. And, if there's one thing the 2004 election cycle--littered with Kerry swiftboating distortions 24/7--taught us, for the umpteenth time, was that those pathological, lying bastards running the media effort for the G.O.P. can sell bacon at a bar mitzvah.
Yes, as much as some reading this will refuse to accept how low America's low-information voters actually go, Rich nails it again in: "How to Lose an Election Without Really Trying."
How to Lose an Election Without Really Trying
By FRANK RICH
New York Times
August 8, 2010
...Betting on amnesia is almost always a winning, not a losing, wager in America. Angry demonstrators at health care town-hall meetings didn't remember that Medicare is a government program, and fewer and fewer voters of both parties recall that the widely loathed TARP was a Bush administration creation supported by the G.O.P. Congressional leadership. So many Republicans don't know Obama is a natural citizen -- 41 percent in a poll last week -- that we must (charitably) assume some of them have forgotten that Hawaii was granted statehood. The G.O.P. chairman is sufficiently afflicted with amnesia that he matter-of-factly regaled an audience with the counterfactual observation that the war in Afghanistan, Bush's immediate response to 9/11, began under Obama.
A political campaign built on Obama's faulty premises cannot stand -- or win. The polls remain as intractable as the 9.5 percent unemployment rate no matter how insistently the Democrats pummel Bush...
...even if the Democrats sharpen their attack, they are doomed to fall short if they don't address the cancer in the American heart -- joblessness. This requires stunning emergency action right now, August recess be damned. Instead we get the Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, offering the thin statistical gruel that job growth has returned "at an earlier stage of this recovery than in the last two recoveries."
The tragically tone-deaf Geithner is on his latest happy-days-are-almost-here-again tour. He made that point in multiple television appearances as well as in a Times Op-Ed page article in which he vowed to "do more" to give workers "the skills they need to re-enter the 21st-century economy." On the same day his essay appeared last week, The Times ran a front-page report on "99ers," the growing band of desperate jobless Americans who have exhausted their 99 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits...
Bold type is diarist's emphasis.
As many within our own party have reminded us, the "things-could-be-a-lot-worse" meme is not a winning slogan enabling a successful Democratic run-up to November.
On Friday evening, Naked Capitalism's Yves Smith further empasized that truth by pointing to the "tone deaf" spinning (see Geithner's commentary, above) of already-spun government statistics which simply aren't cutting it on Main Street in: "Ugly Non-Farm Payrolls Revisions."
(Naked Capitalism Publisher Yves Smith has provided written authorization to the diarist to publish her blog's diaries in their entirety for the Daily Kos community.)
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Ugly Non-Farm Payrolls Revisions
Friday, August 6, 2010
While the preparation of economic data is always a fraught business, one hopes that errors are more or less symmetrical, particularly in data series that (as is the case for some important metrics in the US, like GDP), are released on an initial basis (almost without exception the only one Mr. Market notices) and tidied up subsequently. It's troubling when a statistical release shows a marked bias over time in corrections. It suggests at best a need for a change in methodology (something statisticians are reluctant to implement, since it means the series will not be strictly comparable over time) or at worst, political meddling (pressure to interpret legitimate ambiguities in the early findings so as to produce a prettier picture).
And employment-related data is particularly important politically.
Andrew Horowitz of The Disciplined Investor sent a series of charts by e-mail, and I've included the ones I found most interesting below. Employment context comes first, then the pattern of revisions to non-farm payrolls.
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As many others in the blogosphere have recently noted over the past few weeks, just the potential of railroading middle class heroine and congressional TARP watchdog Elizabeth Warren out of the chairmanship of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has raised the ire of Democrats, nationwide.
Now, we're witnessing the departure of White House Council of Economic Advisers Chair Christina Romer. HuffPo's Lynn Parramore posted a particularly good piece on this late on Friday: "Rooseveltians React to Romer: 'Sensible Thinking Will Be Missed,'" which included reaction about this latest development from numerous Roosevelt Institute fellows and New Deal 2.0 contributors. Here are a couple of those comments via Parramore:
Thomas Ferguson, Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston:
Now there's nobody in the White House familiar with the economics of the Great Depression. And Romer was very, very clear that the financial crisis and the Great Recession had not somehow magically combined to make 8.5% a valid benchmark for "full" employment. Let's see what her successor thinks on that one; it will tell plenty. Unemployment policy is the central economic problem for the United States and the person most interested in it in the White House just left.
Marshall Auerback, Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and a market analyst and commentator:
Compared to the usual Rubinite retreads who currently dominate economic policy in the Obama Administration, Christina Romer was a decided improvement -- although clearly not a terribly influential voice if the current policy trajectory is anything to go by. In keeping with the President's alleged Lincolnesque "Team of Rivals" approach, it would be nice to see Obama use her resignation to bring in an alternative voice, such as James K. Galbraith. More likely, unfortunately, is that Professor Romer will be replaced by another Clintonista who will make all of the usual noises about the need to "get the deficit under control" in order to "retain the confidence of the markets," as well as virtually ignoring the issues of employment, stagnant economic growth and growing income inequality. In other words, there will be no team of rivals, but an echo chamber of Wall Street Democrats.
Even the top editorial in today's NY Times addresses this brutal political reality for our Party this year: "In Search of a New Playbook."
In Search of a New Playbook
NY Times Editorial
August 8, 2010
In less than 90 days, millions of irritable voters will go to the polls to choose a new House and much of the Senate. If Democrats hope to retain control of both chambers in a year of deep dissatisfaction with incumbents, they need a sharper and more inspirational playbook than the one they are using.
Political forecasters have warned for months that the widespread anti-Democratic sentiment in the nation could well coalesce into a Republican wave that approaches that party's gains in 1994. President Obama's independents have deserted him, the business and Tea Party wings of the Republican Party are alight with fervor and cash, and even season-ticket Democrats are searching for their old enthusiasm...
...For most voters, the only real issue is high unemployment, and it is here that Democrats seem to have set aside bold thinking and fallen into the Republican trap of placing deficit fears ahead of job revival. Rather than spend time during the campaign stoking anxiety over Social Security, Democrats should aggressively counter the myth that the deficit is causing unemployment, and advocate using government in ways that might re- inspire voters...
Indeed, this slow-motion, mid-term, Democratic trainwreck has been more than 18 months in the making. Many--from Paul Krugman to Simon Johnson to Joe Stiglitz to Christina Romer--have been warning us of the consequences of not doing enough, soon enough, to prevent what's now taking a massive chunk out of the Democratic Party's collective ass, less than 90 days before the election.
...it's hard not to wonder if much more would have been accomplished, both substantively and politically, had Obama's economic principals, Timothy Geithner and Lawrence Summers, been more open to ideas not of their own authorship and more capable of playing with others, including a public that still hardly knows either of them... ...Once in place in Washington, they would all underestimate the threat of rising unemployment, be blindsided by the populist anger rising outside the capital, and even fail to predict the no-brainer popularity of the "cash for clunkers" program. Their paramount group-think lapse--their inability "to think more boldly about creating jobs fast"--still haunts the administration...
...Summers's Machiavellian efforts to minimize or outright exclude the input of ostensible administration economic players like Paul Volcker, Austan Goolsbee, and Christina Romer seem to have engaged his energies as much as the policy issues at hand.
In April 2009, at Obama's insistence, a group of economists that Summers had blocked from the Oval Office, including Volcker, Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, and Alan Blinder, was invited to a White House dinner. That colloquy has been cited ever since by White House aides in response to complaints that the administration's economic circle is too insular. The dinner was a one-off, however, and the liberal economists' ideas about tougher financial reform and a more ambitious stimulus package have languished.
...Obama was now imprisoned within the cozy Summers-Geithner group "and it would be increasingly difficult for him to see beyond its borders..." ...For all Obama's skepticism of cant, he was "in thrall to the idea that with enough analysis, there was a `right answer' to everything. But a right answer for whom?"
Responding to Rich's rhetorical question, the "right answer"--as navigated by Summers and Geithner--was promptly provided for Wall Street. In contrast, as Rich also points out, the employment hopes of voters on Main Street--much like the economic ideas and sentiments of one-time White House dinner guests Volcker, Krugman, Stiglitz, et al--have languished.
In no uncertain terms, and concluding his column in today's NY Times, Rich tells us of the most likely political consequences of these self-inflicted wounds, come November...
...The Democrats have already retreated from immigration and energy reform. If they can't make the case to Americans...that they offer more hope for a job than a radical conservative movement poised to tear down what remains of the safety net, they deserve to lose.
As I've mentioned it in more than one post over the past few weeks, and as Frank Rich covers it in his column, today, for the sake of the Party come November, it is time to fight the good fight for a second economic stimulus program for Main Street. Anything less than that would just be more "not enough."