Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Krugman: Who You Gonna Believe?

I went through my mail today, and got the usual batch of letters declaring that I’m wrong about everything, and that we should do the opposite of anything I say. Hey, it’s a free country.

But I found myself wondering, as I often do, about the determination with which people believe pundits who please them ideologically, no matter how wrong they have repeatedly been — wrong in ways that, if you believed them, cost you money.

Suppose you had spent the last five years actually believing what you read from the usual suspects — the WSJ opinion pages, National Review, right-wing economists, etc.. Here’s what would have happened:

In 2006 you would have believed that there was no housing bubble.

In 2007 you would have believed that the troubles of subprime couldn’t possibly spread to the financial system as a whole.

In 2008 you would have believed that we weren’t in a recession — and that the failure of Lehman was unlikely to have bad consequences for the real economy.

In 2009 you would have believed that high inflation was just around the corner.

At the beginning of 2010 you would have believed that sky-high interest rates were just around the corner.

Now, we all make mistakes and get things wrong — although it’s striking how often the trolls on this blog feel the need to accuse yours truly of saying things I didn’t. But after this string of errors, wouldn’t you at least begin to suspect that the people you find congenial have a fundamentally wrong-headed view of how the world works?

Guess not.

Ezra Klein: Obama on corporate advertising

The president's most recent radio address was focused on the aftermath of the Citizens United decision and the Republican filibuster against the Disclose Act that would force corporations to take responsibility for their political advertisements. But it ends on an oddly plaintive, almost fearful, note:

What is clear is that Congress has a responsibility to act. But the truth is, any law will come too late to prevent the damage that has already been done this election season. That is why, any time you see an attack ad by one of these shadowy groups, you should ask yourself, who is paying for this ad? Is it the health insurance lobby? The oil industry? The credit card companies?

But more than that, you can make sure that the tens of millions of dollars spent on misleading ads do not drown out your voice. Because no matter how many ads they run – no matter how many elections they try to buy – the power to determine the fate of this country doesn’t lie in their hands. It lies in yours. It’s up to all of us to defend that most basic American principle of a government of, by, and for the people. What’s at stake is not just an election. It’s our democracy itself.

A lot more people will see ads funded by corporations this November than will ever hear or read a word of this radio address.

Peter Goodman, who's been a rising star at the New York Times, covering the economy and business news, agreed this week to leave the paper and sign on with the Huffington Post. Goodman's move, a coup for the online outlet, is a reminder about just how serious a media powerhouse HuffPost is becoming.

But what seemed especially interesting about this wasn't the transition, but rather, the motivation behind it. Goodman chatted with Howard Kurtz about his reasoning.

"For me it's a chance to write with a point of view," Goodman says in an interview. "It's sort of the age of the columnist. With the dysfunctional political system, old conventional notions of fairness make it hard to tell readers directly what's going on. This is a chance for me to explore solutions in my economic reporting."

Goodman, who spent a decade at The Washington Post before his three years at the Times, says he will still rely on facts and not engage in "ranting." And while he was happy at the newspaper, he says, he found he was engaged in "almost a process of laundering my own views, through the tried-and-true technique of dinging someone at some think tank to say what you want to tell the reader."

It's been one of the most glaring flaws in major American media for far too long -- news outlets can tell the public about a story, but they won't tell the public's who's right. Every story has to offer he-said/she-said coverage, and every view has to be treated as entirely legitimate. ("Republicans today said two plus two equals five; Democrats and mathematicians disagree.")

To tell news consumers about a controversy is fine. To tell news consumers who's objectively correct is to be "biased."

For the public that wants to know who's right, and not just who's talking, it creates a vacuum filled by online outlets. For journalists who want to "tell readers directly what's going on," it creates an incentive to abandon news organizations that demand forced neutrality.

brooklynbadboy (Dkos): The wrong way to answer Ms. Velma Hart

First Read noted something that was obvious to me watching the President's town hall:

What was captivating about yesterday’s CNBC town hall with President Obama is that it gave voice -- from real people -- to the reason why his party faces the possibility of big losses on Election Day, which is now exactly six weeks away. That reason: His supporters aren’t fired up right now. “Quite frankly, I'm exhausted,” said one questioner. “Exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the man for change I voted for, and deeply disappointed with where we are right now.”

That "deeply disappointed" person is one Ms. Velma Hart, who is an executive at the veterans service organization AMVETS. Ms. Hart is from what what most of us would say is the most loyal demographic of the base Obama voter: A middle class African-American mother of two, military veteran, wife, mainline protestant from the metropolitan East Coast.

Here she is at the town hall:

At the end, she said:

Quite frankly, Mr. President, I need you to answer this honestly: Is this my new reality?

If I may paraphrase, "is this as good as we're gonna get from you?"

Obama responded:

"As I said before, times are tough for everybody. So, I understand your frustration."

The President then went on note a "whole host of things that do make your life better."

Wrong answer, sir.

Don't go telling Ms. Hart all what you've done for her when she is telling you "I can't feel it." Instead, you need to assert strongly where all these things you are doing are going to take the country. Ms. Hart wants strong action that makes a real, and immediate difference. And by action, she means action that is going to restore her faith in the American Dream: that you can work hard (direct federal hiring), play by the rules (regulate Wall Street), do right by your family (fix the housing market), be proud of your work and America (fair trade), and retire with dignity and respect (no catfood commission).

She said to The New York Post:

"You can have all the hope in the world, but it has to be backed by action. It's been a long time since I had to make decisions about grocery purchases," she said.

Her oldest daughter, Christa, is preparing to go to college next fall and the $50,000 a year in expenses are deeply worrying her.

Hart said the accomplishments Obama rattled off don't help her with a home that has lost half its value, diminished retirement savings, a rising cost of living and stagnant wages.

Make no mistake, Ms. Hart isn't about to go and vote Republican. She remains, and I join her in this, a strong supporter of the President:

Ms. Hart, I think, personifies the enthusiasm gap. Base Democratic voters like her, and I'm sure many Democratic leaning independents, aren't teabaggers. They are people who simply expect this President to tackle the short term as well as the long term problems. If it isn't going to happen, or if they don't believe in the hope of it happening, they're going to stay home this November.

Pushing hard for a middle class tax cut (sigh), is nice. Getting a Christmas card from someone at work is also nice. What would really fire up the base is coming out swinging with an aggressive agenda for next year that includes direct, immediate action on the housing crisis, unemployment, and retirement. Bread and butter Democratic stuff. Tell America where this country is headed and how we are going to get there. That is how you put the GOP on the spot. Tell the story of what they are for (as this front page has advocated all year), and contrast it with where Democratic government will take us. Paint a picture of two American futures, and make sure ours is better. That how to get people like Ms. Hart fired up to win this damn election.

Ms. Hart said it best:

Quite frankly, I thought that my question would set the platform for a response that would almost be, I don't know, whimsical, magical, very powerful. On the fact that he does believe he's made progress, I know he's made progress. The issue for me is that I'm not certain that the progress is being felt deeply enough. And that is where I'm looking for the bang for the buck.

I couldn't agree more.

John Cole: The GOP Gay Outreach Continues at Top Speed

You stay classy, wingnuts:

I’ve just gotten off the phone with Atlanta Journal-Constitution political writer Jim Gallaway who says that Sen. Saxby Chambliss has confirmed that the “All faggots must die” comment left here on JMG earlier today did indeed come from his Atlanta office. Galloway reports that Chambliss told him his office is conducting an internal investigation.

The entire GOP is motivated by hate, fear, and greed.

*** Update ***

From the comments:

To be fair, it’s probably a staffer.

Of course it was a staffer. Chambliss was busy in the well of the Senate, the “world’s greatest deliberative body,” doing the official gay bashing as he voted against DADT.

Bellantoni (TPM): Al Franken Chokes Up Over Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Shortly after Senate Republicans and two Democrats blocked a vote to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Sen. Al Franken gave an impassioned speech on the Senate floor.

Franken (D-MN) told a story about one of his trips to entertain the troops when he was a comedian, and started to choke up over the people who told him they were gay. You can watch him get emotional as he tells the story below.

Franken said the year was 2006 and it came at a time when the military had a tough time recruiting. He said they gave waivers for just about everything at the time.

"If you ask every man and woman on that base, who would you rather have standing to your right, standing to your left, that gay man or that gay woman who has been serving with you the last year, or somebody comes in here with a moral waiver and those troops who had moral waivers, many of them served very honorably and bravely, or some with a cognitive waiver, many of those flourished in the military and are doing great things," Franken said.

He added: "All gay and lesbian service members want to be able to serve. Instead, people are getting kicked out of the military. People who don't need any moral waiver, people who don't need standards lowered for them in order to serve. People who are patriotic and courageous and who have vital, irreplaceable skills."

Franken said the ban "makes no sense."

"It is foolish, it is unjust and we must end it," he said.

Read his statement in full here.

Sullivan: The Race Card, Refreshed

Patrick Buchanan plays it in an unexpected way, denigrating president Obama for failing to give black Americans preferential treatment:

[W]hile conservatives always get one of their own on every national ticket, and all of their own on the Supreme Court, African-Americans seem to settle for a few back-of-the-bus Cabinet seats. Say what you will about the right. But if their party took them for granted the way Democratic presidents take black constituents for granted in plum appointments, there’d be a whole lot of shakin’ going on.

Of course, if Obama ever did give blacks preferential treatment, Buchanan would be the first one to seize on the matter in the most demagogic way imaginable. And insofar as Democrats do take black constituents for granted, it is due in no small part to the fact that those constituents are powerfully averse to voting for the party of Pat Buchanan, who has replaced the outright racism of his early career with a new affinity, suddenly shared by so many on the right, for race-baiting.

John Cole: I’ll Let You Do The Math

Here are two posts, one from Greg Sargent, one from TPM. Read them, and then weep. Sargent:

If this new poll conducted for the labor powerhouse SEIU doesn’t persuade Dems to hold a vote on extending the middle class tax cuts, then nothing will.

The toplines of the poll, which were first reported by Alex Burns, are striking enough: In seven core battleground states, a big majority, 62 percent, favor extending the middle class tax cuts while letting the high end cuts expire. That’s exactly what Dems are mulling a vote on.


Could it really be true that the House is going to adjourn this week and doing nothing on taxes at all? That, of course, would deprive all congressional Democrats of a galvanizing issue and also allow the Republicans to argue that all Democrats had “raised taxes” on everyone. I have a hard time believing this is more than an unfounded rumor. But it would be a good way to knock 10 or 20 more seats out of next years House Democratic caucus.

It doesn’t exactly take Nostra-goddamn-damus to figure out what the gang that can’t shoot straight (unless the gun is pointed at their head) is going to do here, does it? I mean, it’s obvious. Of course they’ll adjourn without doing anything.

  • from the comments:


    Of course they’ll adjourn without doing anything.

    You don’t see the big picture. If Dems schedule a vote on extending tax cuts for $250k and under while letting cuts over that expire, Rs will get mad at them and call them names. There’s nothing they can do. Isn’t that the mantra?

Sullivan: The Stoppable Sarah Palin, Ctd

Douthat discounts Palin:

It is extremely unlikely that the political landscape in the winter and spring of 2012 will resemble the political landscape in the autumn of 2010. Even setting aside the unpredictability of economic developments, foreign-policy crises, and everything else that could shift the ground beneath our feet, the reality of having a more empowered Republican Party in Washington and a weaker President Obama in the White House will almost certainly work profound changes on the country’s mood — and yes, in the mood of the Republican base as well. (It’s hard to be quite so fired up and furious about socialism when Washington is mired in gridlock, and it’s hard to be quite so outraged at RINO perfidy when you’ve kicked a lot of the RINOs out of office.)

The temper of conservative politics in the fall of 1994, the off-year election cycle that most resembles this one (it was a year, as Rich Lowry notes, when a former homeless man defeated the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee), bore little resemblance to the temper of conservative politics in 1996, when Bob Dole cruised to the Republican nomination over more base-pleasing candidates like Pat Buchanan and Phil Gramm.

Ross may be right, but I think he ignores just how much more radical the GOP base has become since 1994, how enraged they have become over the years by what they see as condescension and betrayal by their own elites, and the rise of Fox News and the Malkin/Reynolds blogosphere and Levin-style talk radio. I also think that the people to whom Palin appeals will be as economically distressed in 2012 as they are now, since their jobs are overwhelmingly the ones that are gone for ever.

Ross has fed and ridden this tiger for a while now. He cannot pretend it's a pussycat any more.

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