Wednesday ReadsPosted: March 21, 2012
Minx is waiting for a new modem so I get to share the morning links with you! I’ve got some good reads. Unfortunately, many of them are very discouraging.
First up is a good example of sick humor. I’m not sure what Economist Greg Mankiw had in mind with this one. Perhaps he was thinking of Jonathan Swift or just channeling the insensitivity of his past and present bosses Dubya and Willard. I would like to think Harvard would suggest he take a nice, long, upaid sabbatical over this one. Maybe he’s been spending too much time with his charming colleague Larry-the misogynist-Summers. Here’s an explanation of the pseudo news item from Politico.
Under the header “A Fiscal Solution,” Mankiw, who served as Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under George W. Bush, posted an uploaded photo of an unidentified newspaper clip, a joke, that read:
“Budget Cuts: The Immigration Department will start deporting seniors (instead of illegals) in order to lower Social Security and Medicare costs. Older people are easier to catch and less likely to remember how to get home.”
It’s unclear what the source of the original clip was – but it doesn’t appear to be The Onion. Mankiw offered no comment other than “Thanks to the reader who sent this along” – but he clearly thought it was funny.
If Mankiw was just a Harvard professor, the joke wouldn’t likely resonate. But he posted it on Tuesday – the day when Paul Ryan released a budget Democrats instantly decried as a Medicare killer and two days after Romney scored a big win in Puerto Rico’s primary – which counter the flurry of criticism he’s drawn from Hispanic groups for his embrace of the controversial “self-deportation” immigration strategy.
Sorta puts a new twist on the concept of grannie starving, doesn’t it?
Jonathan Chait has a new feature up at New York Magazine on “How Obama Tried to Sell Out Liberalism in 2011” that’s worth a look. Makes me feel a little nervous about the upcoming budget fights. I’ve jumped to the bottom line.
…faced with unrelenting criticism for his decision to not fully endorse Bowles-Simpson, when the next bipartisan plan came out, this time Obama chose to praise it to the skies. And the criticism is that he killed a bipartisan deal by doing so!
The obvious reality is that there never has been any way to get House Republicans to agree to a balanced deficit deal. Even the capitulation Obama offered — $800 billion in semi-imaginary revenue, all raised from the non-rich — was too much for them to agree to. Locking in that low level of revenue would have required huge cuts in spending, making a decent liberal vision of government impossible. The Post is making the case that there was a potential deal, and Obama blew it by failing to properly handle the easily-spooked Republican caucus. What the story actually shows is that Obama’s disastrous weakness in the summer of 2011 went further toward undermining liberalism than anybody previously knew.
David Corn has a new book out titled Show Down which is being dissected by the pundit class. It’s an update on the workings of the Obama administration along the lines of Suskind’s Confidence Men. This is some musings on an excerpt from WP’s Greg Sargent at The Plum Line. It shows how two of Obama’s advisers–Sperling and Plouffee–knew Obama’s economic rhetoric was straight out of Reaganland and not particularly based in genuine economics
In “Showdown,” an insider account of Obama’s response to the 2010 midterm losses, author David Corn reports on a number of behind-the-scenes discussions that led to the Dems’ emphasis on deficit reduction. Here’s what drove Obama strategist David Plouffe’s thinking (page 132):
Plouffe was concerned that voter unease about the deficit could become unease about the president. The budget issue was easy to understand; you shouldn’t spend more money than you have. Yes, there was the argument that the government should borrow money responsibly when necessary (especially when interest rates were low) for the appropriate activities, just like a family borrowing sensibly to purchase a home, to pay for college, or to handle an emergency. But voters needed to know — or feel — that the president could manage the nation’s finances. The budget was a test of government competence — that is, Obama’s competence.
This is a reference to the “government must tighten its belt” analogy. Obama repeatedly has invoked this language, arguing that government, like families, needs to live within its means. As Paul Krugman has explained at length, this analogy is flawed on many levels. And judging by the above passage, Plouffe knew this. He knew the policy justification for the pivot was thin. But Obama’s team clearly didn’t feel they could win this argument with voters.
Romney won Illinois yesterday. This Saturday is the Louisiana primary. I’ve already been treated to some of the nastiest ads I’ve ever seen. Romney ads are on all the time. It makes me wonder what we’re going to see this fall. As usual, pundits are talking about what the results may or may not mean.
Everything in the sense that Romney beat Santorum again in a large Midwestern state where a majority of voters don’t think of themselves as evangelicals and prize electability and experience as the most important traits for a Republican candidate to possess. Everything in the sense that Romney’s victory — coupled with some organizational flubs by Santorum — means that the former Massachusetts governor will extend his already near-determinative delegate lead.
And nothing in the sense that even Romney’s staunchest allies don’t expect him to pick up enough momentum to win the Louisiana’s caucuses set for Saturday, meaning that the “Romney can’t win the South” and “Romney can’t win conservatives over” storylines will linger as the calendar turns from March to April.
“Nothing impossible in Louisiana but Santorum [is] not likely to be closed out soon,” acknowledged Charlie Black, a longtime Republican campaign hand who is supporting Romney.
Watching politics unfold is anything but dull in the good ol US of A. So, what’s on your reading and blogging list today?