I admit to being completely exhausted. So, let’s see what I can dig up while I’m half asleep.
Josh Holland at AltNet thinks right wingers shouldn’t get too excited about Scott Walker’s win in Wisconsin on Tuesday.
An honest reading of the published exit poll leads to an important conclusion about Walker’s victory that has little to do with unions, Walker’s policies, the economy or any of the other factors that have pundits’ tongues wagging.
Fully 70 percent of those voters polled believed that recall elections are either never appropriate (10 percent) or are only appropriate in the case of official misconduct (60 percent).
The governor won 72 percent of this group. And it’s worth noting that a third of those voters who said “official misconduct” is a good reason to recall a governor voted to oust Walker, who has seen six of his staffers charged with 15 felonies in the “John Doe” probe.
While Walker himself has not yet been charged, reports suggest that the investigation is circling closer to him. Over the past seven weeks, he transferred $160,000 from his campaign funds to a legal defense fund, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
Mohamed A. El-Erian –CEO and co-Chief Investment Officer of the global investment company PIMCO speculates on US economic growth at Project Syndicate. He wonders “Is American Healing Fast Enough?”
Six internal factors suggest that the United States’ economy is slowly healing. For some observers, these factors were deemed sufficient to form the critical mass needed to propel the economy into escape velocity.
While I hoped that they might be proven right, the recent stream of weak economic data, including May’s timid net job creation of only 69,000, confirmed my doubts. With this and other elements of a disheartening employment report now suddenly raising widespread worries about the underlying health and durability of America’s recovery, it is important to understand the positive factors and why they are not enough as yet.
For starters, large US multinational companies are as healthy as I have ever seen them. Their cash balances are extremely high, interest payments on debt are low, and principal obligations have been termed out. Many of them are successfully tapping into buoyant demand in emerging economies, generating significant free cash flow.
Company cash is not the only source of considerable spending power waiting on the sidelines. Rich households also hold significant resources that could be deployed in support of both consumption and investment.
The third and fourth positive factors relate to housing and the labor market. These two long-standing areas of persistent weakness have constituted a major drag on the type of cyclical dynamics that traditionally thrust the US out of its periodic economic slowdowns. But recent data support the view that the housing sector could be in the process of establishing a bottom, albeit an elongated one. Meanwhile, job growth, while anemic, has nonetheless been consistently positive since September 2010.
Great! The richer are richer and big corporations are making it big abroad. What about the poor American worker? Evidently the Fed must think things are shaping up because Bernanke and Yellen are both hinting that the days of historically low interest rates might be nearing the end.
In spite of May’s weak jobs report, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke still sees no reason for the central bank to expand its efforts to boost the American economy. The Fed is assessing whether the economy would continue to grow fast enough to reduce the unemployment rate without further intervention, he said.
This is an interesting youtube by Mauro Martino at Northeastern University. It’s aninfographic of fundraising by the presidential candidates from March 2011 to Feburary 2012.
There’s a lot going on here, but the animated graphic shows how much each of the candidates raised each week and what states it came from, based on the amount of contribution per capita. The top half lists the states on a spectrum from most liberal to most conservative.
What’s great about the graphic is it shows just how drastically Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are in a different monetary league than the other Republican candidates who battled Romney for the nomination. That’s most obvious in the spikes — Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum seldom did better than Romney even on their best days, but Romney’s highest peaks are exponentially larger than theirs.
The disparity becomes clear in the geographic breakdown, too. Romney and Obama tend to raise the most money in the same set of states: D.C., Massachusetts, California, New York, Florida, Texas, Connecticut, and Colorado. Of those states, five are solid Democratic, one is solid Republican, and two are swing. But they’re also the states with the highest concentrations of wealthy people. Meanwhile, the circles for Santorum, Gingrich, and Paul are fairly consistent across the map. At a time when the role of money and politics is fiercely debated, this visualization shows just how far out of proportion the relation between money and votes is. Obama has no chance of winning Texas, but it’s a cash cow for him; the same goes for Romney and California. It’s not hard to imagine how that distorts incentives for candidates. It’s not just that Romney and Obama are playing in a different league. Until August or so, they might as well be playing in a different nation, one comprised of 10 states or so.
Alec MacGillis asks: “Why we are listening to Bill Clinton on Wall Street?” over at TNR in an interesting article called “Let Us Bow Down before the Big Dog”.
Left largely unsaid, though, is that it is also hardly unsurprising for Clinton to be speaking up in defense of high finance. Remember: this is the man who as president presided over the alliance of Wall Street and the Democratic Party, embodied in his treasury secretary, Goldman Sachs veteran (and future Citigroup executive) Robert Rubin. It was Clinton who signed the repeal of Glass-Steagall, the 1933 law breaking up securities firms and commercial banks; it was Clinton whose advisers, notably Rubin and Larry Summers, blocked Brooksley Born’s push for tighter regulation of derivatives; it was Clinton who lowered the capital gains tax in 1997, vastly boosting the bottom line of private equity managers like Mitt Romney who, via the carried interest loophole, had their compensation treated as capital gains rather than ordinary income.
Surely it is no accident that Clinton’s other recent remark undermining Obama was also related to Obama’s allegedly over-populist stance toward high finance and the very wealthy. In an interview last fall with Newsmax — yes, Newsmax — Clinton critiqued Obama’s talk of raising taxes on millionaires who currently pay at very low rates (“The Buffett Rule”) by saying that it was a bad idea to raise anyone’s taxes “until we get this economy off the ground.” He added for good measure: “We don’t have a lot of resentment against people who are successful. We kind of like it, Americans. It’s one of our best characteristics that, if we think someone earned their money fairly, we do not resent their success. Americans lost the fact that, whatever you think about this millionaire surcharge — I don’t really care because I would pay it but it won’t affect me because I already paid income because I live in New York. I will pay more, but it won’t solve the problem.” Clinton tried to clarify these remarks later, but not before Crossroads GPS, the group founded by Karl Rove, built an Obama attack ad around the remarks.
What is utterly lost in the pundits’ exaltation of Clinton’s comments on Bain is that there is, in fact, a real debate going on within the Democratic Party, and that the reaction to the Obama campaign’s attacks on Bain are bringing out the intra-party tensions. On the one side are Democrats like Obama who have seen many former Wall Street supporters turn away from them for daring to hold them responsible for the 2008 financial collapse, for proposing reforms like closing the carried-interest loophole, and for generally believing that the explosive growth of the financial sector the past three decades has not exactly been healthy for the country. These Democrats argue that, while attacks on Bain might not play so well in the Acela Corridor, they may well resonate in Ohio. On the other side of the debate are Democrats like Clinton and Cory Booker, the mayor of the 68th biggest city in the country, who have managed to remain in the good graces of Wall Street, not least because they are not in the position of having to fix what went terribly wrong in the fall of 2008, and who also, it must be noted, are indebted to the high-finance world — Booker for its crucial support of his campaigns, and Clinton for its support of his post-White House philanthropic efforts.
Big dogs never bite the hand that feeds them.
So, this is my offering this morning. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?