Top 5 Dying Facts That Endanger Obama’s Reelection

A brilliant and widely circulated Chicago Tribune obituary claims that Facts has died. If you haven’t read the whole thing, here is a flavor:

Through the 19th and 20th centuries, Facts reached adulthood as the world underwent a shift toward proving things true through the principles of physics and mathematical modeling. There was respect for scientists as arbiters of the truth, and Facts itself reached the peak of its power.

But those halcyon days would not last. People unable to understand how science works began to question Facts. And at the same time there was a rise in political partisanship and a growth in the number of media outlets that would disseminate information, rarely relying on feedback from Facts.

… Facts is survived by two brothers, Rumor and Innuendo, and a sister, Emphatic Assertion.

Services are alleged to be private. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that mourners make a donation to their favorite super PAC.

I’m a starry eyed optimist, so I choose to think Facts is still on life support hoping for a miracle recovery. But if the President and his team can’t successfully breathe life back into five key Facts that are currently on life support, it’s difficult to see how he can win in November.

Fact #1: Obama opted for a private health insurance reform model developed by Mitt Romney and other conservatives, rather than an insurance plan run by government.

Fact on life support.

• Fact on Life Support: Only 25% of people who took the Kaiser health reform quiz understood that Obama’s health reforms will not “create a new government run insurance plan to be offered along with private plans.”

• Implications of Death: GOP parrot trainer Frank Luntz has commanded his cockatiels to repeat the phrase “government takeover of health care” for a very sound political reason, because market research shows that is a compelling reason for moderate swing voters to oppose health care reform. The more swing voters believe that falsehood, the less they like Obamacare and Obama.

Fact on life support.

Fact #2: Bush policies and the economic downturn under Bush were the most powerful causes of the ballooning national debt, and Romney wants to extend those Bush policies.

• Fact on Life Support: Out of twelve issues, there is only one issue where voters say Romney would do a better job than Obama – handling the deficit. Voters currently believe Bush disciple Romney is the best person to tackle the debt that Bush policies largely created.

• Implications of Death: The size of the debt is especially concerning to moderate swing voters, so getting blamed for causing that problem badly hurts the President’s prospects of wooing that key constituency.

Fact #3: Obama’s stimulus package of tax cuts and investments helped ease the pain and damage done by the Great Recession.

Fact on life support.

• Fact on Life Support: Over half of independents (56%) believe the stimulus didn’t make any difference.

• Implications of Death: The central issue of the campaign is the economy, stupid. If swing voters don’t believe Obama was effective on the issue that concerns them the most, look out.

Fact #4: In terms of private sector job creation, things have gotten significantly better during Obama’s time in office than they were under Bush and the the Bush policies Romney proposes to resurrect.

Fact on life support.

• Fact on Life Support: Three-fourths (75%) of independents believe that the economy has gotten worse or stayed the same, and 77% of independents believe the economy is still in recession.

• Implications of Death: Even if most voters blame Bush for the economic meltdown, as most still do, according to polls, it’s difficult to see how swing voters who believe that things are still headed in the wrong direction will vote to rehire the incumbent President.

Fact #5: In the Obama years, taxes for the middle class were near historic lows.

Fact on life support.

• Fact on Life Support: Eighty-five percent of independent voters incorrectly believe taxes on the middle class either increased or have not changed.

• Implications of Death: Independent swing voters vote their pocketbooks, and oppose paying more in taxes. If they perceive that they were paying high taxes in the middle of a recession, the Democrat in charge will get the lion’s share of the blame, because Democrats are usually presumed to be advocating for higher taxes.

Of course, there are many other falsehoods hurting Obama. Little things like he is a foreigner, Muslim, socialist designing death panels to kill off your loved ones.

But in a year when the economy is the top issue, and with the health reform bill about to get hot again after the Supreme Court rules, these are the five dying Facts that are hurting Obama the most with swing voters. Team Obama needs to resuscitate good old Fact, or Obama’s political career will perish with him.

- Loveland

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78 Responses

  1. The biggest fact is that Obama has accomplished nothing in 4 years to advance the nation. We’re far worse off than we have been in 80 years. Everyone knows it.

    And then there’s this story:

    House Dem: Unemployed Will Vote For Obama To Keep “Their Benefits”

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2012/04/25/house_dem_unemployed_will_vote_for_obama_to_keep_their_benefits.html

    As the Food Stamp President, Obama must grow the dependency class to 51% to have a chance at re-election.

  2. Re fact #5. CBPP’s graph does not show middle/median class tax burden “dropping” to historic lows under Obama. In historical terms, it shows the maintenance of fairly low levels achieved under Bush. Which is a perfectly good point to make, as CBPP does. But it’s not a “drop”. Within the 08 – present range, there’s a pretty big Obama spike as compared to years immediately prior. Which you know, might be the factual underpinning for the independents belief that taxes have risen.

    But, I do know that it’s us literalists who must be wrong. In this case, I’m just not sure why. Whats the reason we should understand that fact way you characterized it as opposed to what it says?

    • CBPP explains:

      Figure 1 shows that while the overall trend in a typical family’s effective tax rate has been downward, the 2011 rate is above the rates for 2009 and 2010.

      This is because of the expiration of the Making Work Pay Tax Credit. Created by (Obama in the) the 2009 Recovery Act, Making Work Pay provided an income tax credit of $800 to married couples ($400 to single filers) in 2009 and 2010. In 2011, this tax credit expired and policymakers replaced it with a cut in the employee portion of the Social Security payroll tax, from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent of workers’ Social Security taxable earnings (which were capped at $106,800 in 2011).

      Therefore, while middle-income taxpayers will pay slightly higher federal income taxes on their 2011 income than on their 2009 and 2010 income, they will pay lower payroll taxes.[5]

      …Most Americans pay more in payroll taxes, which support Social Security and Medicare, than they do in income taxes. Thus, the 14.3 percent figure reflects the impact of payroll taxes far more than income taxes.

      When CBO releases data for more recent years, the overall effective federal tax rates on middle-income families (and other taxpayers) are likely to be lower because of the effect of the Making Work Pay tax credit in 2009 and 2010 and the payroll tax cut in 2011 and 2012, as well as the weaker economy (since the large rise in unemployment reduced many families’ incomes).

      • Right. And that’s a perfectly fine causal explanation. CBPP is fine. You are not.

        Why do you get to mischaracterize CBPP’s stats and then complain about the public’s understanding of the factual terrain?

      • I have no idea what you are talking about. When taxes are about as low as they have been in 50 years and 85% of independents think that taxes are higher or flat, that’s a pretty good sign of a Fact dying. Perception and reality are completely separated.

        Obama cut payroll taxes for the middle class and that is a big part of the tax picture. Centering your tax argument on a single tax is a shell game.

  3. Re fact #1 – Luntz and other blunt tools notwithstanding, to what degree the Romney and Obama plans are similar and free market is a side argument that almost no one engages. Lucky for you, that makes it an easy argument to win, but it’s still inconsequential.

    The public’s objection to Obamacare is that it’s bankrupting and that every argument used to pass it was a lie.

    • It is Fact that Obamacare is leading to a system in which private sector health insurers get more business, not less. Do you deny that?

      It is Fact that Obamacare does not allow the government to have a Medicare for All type plan to compete against the private sector. Do you deny that?

      Those two Facts lead to one overarching Fact — Obamacare is a private run health care reform model, not government run health care, as asserted by conservatives.

      The Emphatic Assertion is repeated, repeated, repeated, and repeated until only 25% of the people know the Fact. That’s how Fact is dying.

  4. Fact #2 – Romney is a Bush disciple? How? How is Obama not a Bush disciple?

    • As the RNC spokesperson said the other day “I think it’s (i.e. the Romney agenda) that program (i.e. the Bush agenda), just updated.”

      Bush was all about trickle down tax cuts for the rich and moving away from Clinton era taxing and investing policy. Romney strongly supports continuation of the Bush cuts, plus additional trickle down cuts for wealthy people. He opposes any return to the Clinton era fiscal policies.

      Romney is just doing karoke of Bush’s greatest hits.

      • Why hasn’t Obama changed it? Why do you still support Obama then?

        It really takes some gall to trot this out as some example of moral superiority. It’s quite the free ride.

      • Re: “Why hasn’t Obama changed it (Bush tax cuts) then?”

        You know this, but I guess I’m obligated to repeat it. Obama has been trying to undo the Bush tax cuts and the Republicans have been blocking it. As USA Today reports:

        Obama, GOP Prepare New Battle Over Bush Tax Cuts

        Obama has long advocated ending the Bush-era rates for individuals who make more than $200,000 a year and couples who make more than $250,000 annually.

        The president and congressional Republicans clashed over the Bush tax cuts in late 2010, right before they were due to expire.

        Rather than face expiration, and a resulting tax increase for all Americas, Obama and the GOP agreed to a two-year extension — to end right after the 2012 elections.

        So, the Bush tax cuts were also going to be an issue in the 2012 race.

      • Federal spending and the deficit exploded under Bush. He was nearly the disaster that Obama has been.

  5. Great piece, Joe.

  6. So anyone here have any theories behind the prosecution’s questioning of Joe Senser, asking him if his wife had ever lied to him or been unfaithful?

    I think we’re going to get a surprise witness or two before this trial is over.

    • Look, I’m not an attorney or anything close, but the issue is her credibility–and who is better placed to question it but her husband–if he is willing to answer those questions. Already her step daughter has pointed out some unflattering things–if her husband echoes those, she might be toast.

      Uggh. I hate all of this stuff. The dark underbelly of our world. Maybe i am a coward, but I’d really rather not know.

  7. The power of incumbency:

    you do get to run on your record. All I can say is “ouch”.

  8. And, to keep it all in perspective:

    Obama/Romney compared to Bush/Kerry:

    http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2012/04/2012-election-is-bush-kerry-in-reverse.html

    Amazing how much can change when you are on the other side (this time)

  9. Jeez, another “it’s Bush’s fault” filled pile of do-do. The Bush “tax cuts” had been in place for a decade. They were more like the “tax rates”. Obama only let the tax rate stand (until he’s re-elected) The only tax that Obama reduced (for 2 years I think) is the social security tax taken out of your check. Nice move, taking money from a nearly bankrupt entity, and like I said it’s for 2 years. Big deal! Taxes have gone up on everything else from tobacco products to booze. So don’t give us this load of crap about Obama’s tax cuts. To even suggest Obama care is a “private run” system is about the most asinine thing I’ve heard. What’s the name of this “private” company? Who’s setting the rules? Who’s enforcing the mandates? Who’s enforcing the penalties for non-compliance?
    Man, I’ve read some far out stuff but this is ridculous.

    • Don’t know much about the Bush tax cuts, do you?

      They were passed with an expiration date (because bush and the Republican Congress refused to make them permanent as it would have been impossible for them to pretend that they not busting the budget otherwise), and Obama supported an extension of those tax cuts–until 2013. Initially, Obama only wanted to extend the Bush tax cuts for people with income under $250,000.00–but as a compromise on deficit reduction, he ended up agreeing to extend them all.Given that the taxes would have gone up for everyone without Obama’s active support, that clearly counts as a tax cut by Obama.

      go cry and howl about something else you know nothing about.

  10. Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?
    Oh, I see, if Obama extends a “Bush tax cut” because it’s a “compromise” then it’s an Obama tax cut.
    Go back to sleep.

  11. We can easily get to brass tacks here.

    Do you fellows claim that Democrats and liberals don’t lie? Or is it rather that Democratic lies are OK because they are stated to further [weird, dystopic] egalitarianism.

    • Ok, I’ll take the bait, again. Yes, of course, Erik, Democrats lie. Clinton, Wiener, Edwards, Obama with 5 Pants on Fire ratings from Politifact. On their behalf, I’ll shall say 5 Hail Mary’s and an Act of Contrition.

      And now is when you follow up by saying that because Democrats lie, any discussion of Republican-generated falsehoods is hypocritical and invalid and that no discussion should happen. Been there. Done that.

      But to move beyond that predictable dance, here is my question for you: This post is about demonstrable lies that are sticking and endangering Obama’s chances of reelection. Let’s stay true to that subject, and try to learn more about your specific beef. I’m wondering, which demonstrable Democratic lies about Romney are sticking and fundamentally endangering Romney’s chances of election?

    • I think Democratic lying about Romney has been rather benign. We’ll see.

      The President claiming Romney would not have ordered the Osama killing is probably not technically a lie, but it is absurd.

      We certainly can discuss Republican lying. I am willing to do so. As an honest broker I’ll make as many acknowledgements of their lying as I can.

      As I have said before… I don’t regard “both sides do it’ as a compelling observation. It’s like the ocean being wet or the sky being blue. Both sides DO do it, whatever ‘it’ might be at the moment. That’s a rather mundane fact.

      More so than hypocrisy, what’s galling is the claim on a moral authority that’s supposed to excuse liberalism’s numerous excesses and extremes. That and the idol worship of the President, who is by any measure very flawed.

      • Okay, that’s progress. There is one specific alleged lie on the table that you feel may be in the same category as those in the post – demonstrably false claims that are sticking and endangering the candidate’s chances.

        So, let’s talk specifics about that grievance, rather than “both sides do it” generalities.

        In 2007, Obama said it would be right to infringe Pakistani territory if Islamabad refused to act on intelligence on terror suspects. Romney said, “It’s wrong for a person running for the president of the United States to get on TV and say, ‘We’re going to go into your country unilaterally.’”

        So, if bin Laden is in Pakistan when President Romney is in office, and President Romney is on the record saying he feels it is wrong to go into Pakistan unilaterally to get terrorists, how would President Romney have gotten bin Laden?

        That’s an absolutely fair question to pose to Romney, given that he had criticized Obama on that very point.

      • I’m not certain that Romney at the time was making a statement about Pakistani sovereignty. I recall them critiquing Obama for naively defining in public what should remain essentially ambiguous.

        No matter. Romney no doubt at times tried to achieve contrast from the Bush unilateralists. He’s a bona fide moderate, so this is in character.

        That doesn’t exclude ordering Geronimo. Thinks like that have institutional momentum. If you’ve got the dude cornered, Presidents order the hit. Bill Clinton being the singular exception.

    • Buffet rule is a lie and gimmick. Yes, you can get an Obama spokesdouche to concede its limited utility, but they quite happily allow this myth / conflation that it fixes the deficit to persist in the uninformed public’s mind.

      • Wrong. You are mischaracterising the Obama position. It is a fairness issue–he is not proposing that you will solve the entire deficit problem with the Buffet Rule. It will raise $$, and that will help with the deficit. Will it solve the entire deficit?–of course not, and I don’t think you or anyone else can find an instance of Obama or any of his official spokespeople saying that the Buffet rule all by itself will solve the budget deficit.

        More on the Republican hypocrisy on this talking point here:

        http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tue-april-17-2012/the-great-buffett-caper

        Jon Stewart, as usual, tears this criticism of the Buffet Rule apart

      • Were it not a lie, it’s still a gimmick. It’s not serious public policy. That’s Republican objection #1, and they are quite right.

        Making the rich pay at Buffet rule rates mitigates no unfairness at all btw. The underlying issue is that the rich enjoy the utility of money more by virtue of having more of it. Unless you address that, you’ve done nothing.

      • Then, is it also a “gimmick” to propose “pork barrel spending,” since it does not begin to solve the entire deficit and debt problems? Even though it only makes a tiny dent, isn’t it still worth doing?

      • Yes, it’s a gimmick in many cases to propose pork barrel spending.

        The answer to is ‘it’ worth doing, whatever ‘it’ is at the moment, is “it depends”.

        The Buffet rule is not worth doing. It’s completely vapid and a waste of time.

  12. Speaking about facts being unable to penetrate various dogmas….Here are some facts regarding tax increases. Bottom line: Supply side economics is not supported by Facts.

    http://www.cbpp.org/files/4-24-12tax.pdf

    http://jaredbernsteinblog.com/the-economic-impact-of-raising-taxes-on-high-income-households/

    Taxable income and revenue. Opponents of raising the taxes that high-income households face often point to findings that high-income taxpayers respond to tax-rate increases by reporting less income to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as evidence that high marginal tax rates impose significant costs on the economy. However, an important study by tax economists Joel Slemrod and Alan Auerbach found that such reductions in reported income largely reflect timing and other tax avoidance strategies that taxpayers adopt to minimize their taxable income, not changes in real work, savings, and investment behavior. While such strategies entail some economic costs, these costs are relatively modest. Moreover, policymakers can limit high-income taxpayers’ ability to respond to increases in tax rates by engaging in tax avoidance activity — and also enhance the efficiency of the tax code — by broadening the tax base, as discussed below.
    Work and labor supply. The evidence shows that changes in tax rates that fall within the ranges that policymakers are debating have little impact on high-income individuals’ decisions regarding how much to work. As Leonard Burman, former head of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center (TPC), recently testified, “Overall, evidence suggests [high-income Americans’] labor supply is insensitive to tax rates.”[2] A marginal rate increase may encourage some taxpayers to work less because the after-tax return to work declines, but some will choose to work more, to maintain a level of after-tax income similar to what they had before the tax increase. The evidence suggests that these two opposing responses largely cancel each other out.
    Saving and investment. Some claim that tax increases on high-income people — in particular, increases in capital gains and dividend tax rates — depress private saving rates and investment. But as Professor Joel Slemrod has written, “there is no evidence that links aggregate economic performance to capital gains tax rates.”[3] Similarly, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) has reported that most economists find that reducing capital gains tax rates would have only a small — and possibly negative — impact on saving and investment.[4] Although tax increases on high-income individuals might reduce their saving, if the revenue generated is devoted to deficit reduction, the resulting increase in public saving is likely to more than offset any reduction in private saving. CRS concludes, “Capital gains tax rate increases appear to increase public saving and may have little or no effect on private saving. Consequently, capital gains tax increases likely have a positive overall impact on national saving and investment.”[5]
    Small business. The evidence does not support the claim that raising top marginal income tax rates has a heavy impact on small business owners: a recent Treasury analysis finds that only 2.5 percent of small business owners fall into the top two income tax brackets and that these owners receive less than one-third of small business income. Moreover, even those small business owners who would be affected by tax increases on high-income households are unlikely to respond by reducing hiring or new investment. As Tax Policy Center co-director William Gale has noted:[6]
    “[T]he effective tax rate on small business income is likely to be zero or negative, regardless of small changes in the marginal tax rates. This is for three reasons. First, small businesses can expense (immediately deduct in full) the cost of investment. This alone brings the effective tax rate on new investment to zero, regardless of the statutory rate. Second, if they can finance the investment with debt, the interest payments would be tax deductible, making the effective tax rate negative. Third, they can deduct wage payments in full, so the marginal tax rate should have minimal impact on hiring.”

    In addition, a review of the research finds little evidence for the common assertion that small businesses are responsible for the majority of job creation in the United States or that tax breaks for small businesses generally — as distinguished from start-up ventures — are effective at stimulating jobs or growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

    Entrepreneurship. CRS finds that “An extensive empirical literature on [the relationship between income tax rate increases and business formation] is mixed, but largely suggests that higher tax rates are more likely to encourage, rather than discourage, self-employment.”[7] One reason is that taxes may reduce earnings volatility, with the government bearing some of the risk of a new venture — by allowing tax deductions for losses — and receiving some of the returns. Further, there is little evidence that the current preferential tax rates for capital gains and dividends substantially stimulate investment in new ventures.
    Growth and jobs. History shows that higher taxes are compatible with economic growth and job creation: job creation and GDP growth were significantly stronger following the Clinton tax increases than following the Bush tax cuts. Further, the Congressional Budget office (CBO) concludes that letting the Bush-era tax cuts expire on schedule would strengthen long-term economic growth, on balance, if policymakers used the revenue saved to reduce deficits. In other words, any negative impact on economic growth from increasing taxes on high-income people would be more than offset by the positive effects of using the resulting revenue gain to reduce the budget deficit. Tax increases can also be used to fund, or to forestall cuts in, productive public investments in areas that support growth such as public education, basic research, and infrastructure.

    • Baloney.

      Bernstein never uses the term ‘supply-side’ in his critique. What’s being discussed is the Laffer curve, which is an observation that high tax rates will depress tax revenues at some point. Insofar as ‘supply-side’ characterizes an economic system, it’s merely to say that low tax rates promote growth better than high tax rates.

      And these are both true. Whether it’s true now and whether it would be true if the Bush tax cuts expired is, I would concede, arguable. Because change is relative and it has to be big enough. But it’s true nonetheless, and it was true in 1980. The Reagan tax code was superior to the Carter tax code. It did promote / cause economic growth and it was in the end a more efficient capturer of tax revenue.

  13. And, by your same argument, the Clinton tax code was superior to both the Reagan tax code and the Bush II tax code. And, because allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire would return us to the Clinton tax code, we have just now agreed that the Obama tax Code is superior to the Bush II tax code as well as the putative Romney tax code.

    Both GDP and employment grew faster after the 1993 Clinton tax INCREASE than they did after the 2001 Bush tax DECREASE. Further, the deficit also dramatically lessened under the one while it dramatically grew under the other. How can you argue that a return to the Clinton era tax rates would not be a good thing?

    • To argue that the Clinton tax code caused the 90’s boom is moronic. There was also the peace dividend, the PC revolution, the wind down of the S&L crisis, easy mortgage money, and tens of millions of baby boomers in their prime earning years.

      However I doubt that a return to Clinton tax rates would stunt growth at all. For what it’s worth, Republicans overstate the consequences of a relatively small tax increase like this. We were all there, present at the time, so we know those rates are OK within a vibrant economy.

      There is a pet notion among the academics right now that a rate of 75% would be just peachy, with no ill economic effects. These guys are engaged in fantasy.

      • First, i want to note that we seem to be largely in agreement here–agreeing that a return to the Clinton era tax levels would not mean socialism in America, much less an economic disaster.

        That said, i just want to ask why you can argue that the Reagan tax policies are responsible the the Reagan boom, but the Clinton tax policies aren’t responsible for the Clinton boom?

        Couldn’t we just as easily point to the deregulation of the Carter era (in transportation, finance, etc.) as coming to fruition under Reagan and being responsible for the economic growth of the 1980’s?

        To be perfectly honest with you, one of the most dishonest aspects of GOP orthodoxy is the treatment of Jimmy Carter–who really was the pioneer of de-regulation, which had a hugely positive impact on the economy.

        As to your point about the 75% tax rate–I am not aware of any policy people who are advocating any such thing. Frankly, i think that it is unnecessary–we could largely solve the budget issues by returning to clinton era rates, so more is overkill.

      • The arguments I would say are strong that Clinton tax changes did not ’cause’ the 90’s boom.

        The Clintonista’s probably have not yet gotten due credit for their commitment to fiscal discipline, and this had much to do with the boom. Is their a difference between that and tax policy? Kinda sorta.

  14. This is a very good (although brief) analysis of the fact free approach to budgets and deficits that Romney and the GOP are using this election cycle:

    http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2012/05/romneys-budget-fairy-tale.html

  15. http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2012/05/20/gop_rep_daniel_webster_bashes_census_survey_as_quot_random_quot_rather_than_quot_scientific_quot_.html

    Another example of the death of “Facts”. A Member of Congress who wants to end the census survey because it is a “random survey, not a scientific survey”.

    When did those things become mutually exclusive? You would think that a politician (who must of necessity deal with public opinion polls as a part of re-election) would understand that random surveys are very scientific indeed. But, apparently, that is not the case.

    Oh, and he is a Republican. This does not, of course, prove that all Republicans are stupid–only this particular one (because this was not a random or scientific survey, of course).

  16. I heard a fascinating fact on MPR today that I never knew before. Maybe you already know this, PM, but “the budget” is merely a resolution..a recommendation. It’s not a law. Am I the only one who never knew this? No wonder nobody follows it. They don’t have to. (Plus, it doesn’t hurt to own the printing presses and all that nice green ink.)

    • Yeah, i actually did know that. Congressional budgeting process is really arcane, because the spending bills (authorization bills) really aren’t spending bills, either. The Appropriations bills are the real spending bills.

      It wasn’t until the creation of the house budget committee in 1974 that there really was any budget process at all.

      Basically, there is one Appropriations Committee, with a bunch of subcommittees, that determines who gets what. Then there are all of the authorization committees, that tell everyone who gets $$ how they are supposed to spend it. The Budget Committee (and a process) were established in 1974 in order to coordinate all of this, and also allow for the Executive Branch (the President–who does the actual spending) to have input into the process.

      This is all really strange, convoluted, twisted, etc., because none of it was designed–it all evolved. And it is still evolving. Sometimes they try to redesign parts of it, but they never really do a good job of getting rid of the old ways, so you tend to get new processes that are added on top of old processes. And, of course, confusion. This is why lobbyists are necessary–they tend to be the only ones who understand it all.

  17. Suppose you could redesign the process so that it was sensible – flexible enough to fit exigencies but sane enough to provide bright lines that everyone could understand. What would it look like? What would you get rid of – or consolidate – or invent? How exactly would the new process work?

    I realize this sounds as though I’m writing an essay exam question; sorry – didn’t mean to. But you obviously know a heck of a lot more than I do about this and I’d be really interested in hearing any ideas you or others might have.

    • EXTRA CREDIT: How would you get rid of lobbyists?

    • Well, I am not certain that it is either possible or necessary to reform the budget process. The experts have no interest in reform—their knowledge and understanding of the arcane process give them status and power in the halls of congress, and you need to have them on your side in order to change things.

      And an insurgency won’t do it, either. Look at 1994 and the Gingrich “revolution”. A bunch of guys who had no experience or vested interest in the old process too over, and what did they do? Pretty much nothing. There was no reform, no simplification. It became clear pretty quickly that they were far more interested in taking over and controlling the process than they were in changing or simplifying or improving it. No, daylight was not something that they valued.

      But that isn’t such a bad thing, really. After all, the process generally works. It is convoluted and dirty, but, you really don’t want to watch sausages being made, either (but they are still delicious!). Bottom line—we can make judgments (vote) based on the outcomes, and not the process.

      On the other hand, the Senate is the place where reform is really needed—there needs to be a limit on cloture votes and filibusters, etc. Not getting rid of it, but limiting to just the most important things. Maybe we need to treat them like timeouts—you only get so many per game.

      As for lobbyists—as a former lobbyist, I kind of like lobbyists. I’m not certain I’d get rid of them at all. I think that they serve a useful purpose—they keep the politicians from having a monopoly on understanding the legislative process. And the more lobbyists there are, the easier it is for everyone to get their own lobbyist. Hell, every two bit outfit on the hill has a couple of lobbyists, every nonprofit can afford them. That’s not such a bad thing. If you start to restrict them, then only the really rich will be able to afford lobbyists, and things will be even worse. I bet you there are even OWS lobbyists somewhere! I think that expanding the number of lobbyists is the best way to democratize our system.

  18. Huh. I’ve got to think THAT one through, PM. Thanks.

  19. Here is another of the “facts” that have become bedrock beliefs in certain areas of our political discourse:

    That Obama (and all Democrats) are big spenders. Not True!

    http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/05/federal-deficit-barack-obama-spending-stimulus-budget-historic-trends.php?ref=fpa

    Add this to the birther conspiracy theory that simply will not die.

    • Not sure why you support him and assert his competence then. You’d like more social and infrastructure spending, and we know Keynesianism works right? Yet he hasn’t raised spending. Hasn’t raised taxes.

    • If Obama spending increases net out to less than Bush spending increases, then there’s no economic impact that can be correlated to the stimulus, right? It failed.

      • Yes, i do think that Keynesianism works–not perfectly, but i do think that it has been proven to be the only economic theory that reflects what generally happens in the real world.

        And, i also think that the best way to get out of the current recession would be more federal spending–on things that are necessary and put people to work, like infrastructure. Fix bridges that are falling down, etc. Plenty of that stuff around.

        I support Obama because he is at least reality based and understands these things. Romney (the alternative) is flawed, and the positions that he proposes would be disastrous for our economy.

        Bush spending increases were on things like Medicare part D and two wars. Further, Bush also pushed thru (at the end of his term) auto bailouts and some spending increases related to the economic collapse.

        Most economists say that the stimulus worked (things would have been far worse without it, more like European experience), but clearly it did not end the recession. So saying it failed is probably not accurate–but it was insufficient. At the same time, it is hard to imagine that more could have been done politically–too many people (R and D) worrying about deficits at the time. Still possible to correct that failing, but not with the current make up of the Senate and house.

      • It’s binary. If it didn’t succeed, it failed. And we know it didn’t succeed.

        If the stimulus wasn’t big enough, what that shows is inability to build and advocate for reality based policy solutions. They have said the reason the stimulus didn’t bring unemployment down to 8% as targeted was because “we didn’t understand the depth of the crisis.” Which is to say, in practice they’ve never demonstrated that reality based understanding you assert they possess and they’ve acknowledged they don’t possess it.

        We can have arguments around the margins. But this “what’s the bigger lie’ exercise is completely anti-intellectual, and it doesn’t matter. Voting for a guy because h’s a Democrat and embodies your values is one thing, and a compelling enough argument, but extolling the virtues of the Obama admisnitartions competence is not going to sell. The independents are not going to buy it.

  20. Erik, your artificial/arbitrary simplifications are silly. It is not binary. There are infinite shades of gray between black and white.

    Further, the point of this particular thread isn’t a “what’s the bigger lie”, but rather the factually challenged arguments of one particular side.

    I just pointed out one of them–spending has not increased under Obama. Here it is in chart form for you:

    http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2012/05/chart.html

    spending, taxes and the deficit are all lower now than when Obama took office. You won’t hear a Romney or any of his surrogates say that, , because they simply can not acknowledge the truth–to do so would be to give up on the election.

    • There are numerous conservative critiques of this Nutting / Marketwatch article by now.

      http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2012/05/barack-obama-skinflint.php

      http://hotair.com/archives/2012/05/23/correcting-obamas-spending-record-again/

      The jist of the critique is that FY 2009 would have ostensibly been a Bush budget. There was a bit of chaos at the time though, and the Democratic congress waited until Obama was inaugurated to move the budget through. So Nutting assigns FY2009 to Bush, even though Obama signed it, nd thus adjusts Obama’s spending stats. And because the stimulus occurred within FY 2009, he also assigns that to Bush. That’s baloney.

      And Bush gets credit for TARP as well I suppose, and maybe he should, but my eyes glaze over at this point because I’m not married to statistics. The thing is whereas I had a decent tactile understanding that Obama is a big spender and that liberals engage in obsequious douchebaggery to smooth over his flaws and further his hagiography, those senses of mine have been confirmed once again.

      There are infinite shades of gray. Assertions can however be evaluated in Boolean terms, ie whether they are true or not, whether they are falsifiable or not. “Obama is not a big spender” is falsifiable. He’s a big spender. You know he’s a big spender. That’s part of his appeal to Democrats. So it’s a bit galling to be tsk-tsked for thinking he’s a big spender. It’s galling because you’re lying and then telling me I’m dumb for not believing you.

      • Don’t you see yourself engaging in confirmation bias? You are grasping at anything here in order to confirm your “decent tactile understanding” and those “senses” of yours. Obama is a Democrat, therefore he must be a big spender, and everything else is a lie.

        And, of course, you’re not married to statistics when they threaten a deeply held bias.

        Nope, that’s not dumb at all. not even for an engineer with a masters degree.

        Of course, Obama wanted to spend more than he has–based on a pretty solid theoretical case (Keynesian economics) it would make a lot of sense for more federal stimulus. Obama has not been shy about making that case–and also making the case for addressing the deficits in the future (budget cuts and tax increases), once we are back on a strong economic growth trajectory–just as happened under Clinton (and the opposite of what happened under Bush II).

        But Obama was not able to get Congress to go along–and there was resistance among both republicans and Democrats (but far more from Republicans, who are apparently more than willing to spend like drunken sailors when they are in charge, and only seem to care about debt and deficits when they are out of power).

        So, Obama wanted to spend more, but the facts are that he has not. So, given that he has not been a big spender (even though he–with good reasons, would have preferred to spend more) you cannot accurately call him a big spender. Sorry, but facts are kind of stubborn things in that way.

        (of course, you always have the option of lying–pulling a Romney, as the rest of the fact based world would call it)

      • If you embrace Nutting’s argument, you embrace a calculation that says the stimulus package goes to Bush’s debit column.

        That’s not true, and you can’t rationalize it away. To embrace it is to feed your own confirmation bias. Extolling it then us obsequious partisan douchebaggery, and you can’t get around that. Its boolean.

      • Maybe it would help if you read nuttings argument first:

        “Obama is not responsible for that increase, though he is responsible (along with the Congress) for about $140 billion in extra spending in the 2009 fiscal year from the stimulus bill, from the expansion of the children’s health-care program and from other appropriations bills passed in the spring of 2009.” (from :http://www.marketwatch.com/story/obama-spending-binge-never-happened-2012-05-22?pagenumber=2)

        Nutting clearly attributes the stimulus spending to Obama.

        So, seeing as how you have again demonstrated that your case is factually wrong, your argument collapses. It doesn’t need to be rationalized away, it simply needs to be examined with an eye to truth.

        even boolean logic suffers from GIGO. Get your mind out of the garbage.

        here is a good article about a conservative who is abandoning the conservative movement because of its willingness to abandon truth and principle (things that real conservatism is based on) for money, wealth and power:

        http://www.salon.com/2012/05/24/my_break_with_the_extreme_right/

        i long for the day when the GOP abandons its lust for power and cash, and will put up principled, conservative contenders for political office that i can actually vote for–people who are fact based conservatives, in the mold of Durenberger and Danforth and Frenzel.

      • I had read Nuttings article, and I do think I explained something poorly or did in fact glom onto the fuzzy sentence of someone who writes within the conservative opinion loop. What can I say? I admit it. I also admit that I’m a jerk here at SRC.

        That done, perhaps you can feel freer to admit the obsequious douchebaggery of arguing Obama is not a big spender.

        The President is a big spender.

        Nutting took FY 09 + TARP and made that the baseline from which Obama budgets would be compared. That’s BS.

        http://blog.american.com/2012/05/actually-the-obama-spending-binge-really-did-happen/

      • Look, Erik, first of all, in general, Republicans have constructed a fantasy world of supposed “facts” about spending and budgets and deficits, and it simply doesn’t make sense. Here is a very complete demolition of this crazy structure, as Romney encapsulates it:

        http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2012/05/romneys-budget-fairy-tale.html

        Frankly, Obama is not a big spender–there are two ways to look at this, depending on where you want to assign the year 2009. Above, we went at it one way–Nutting makes the case that you have to assign most of 2009 to Bush, and, if you do, Bush is a much bigger spender than Obama. You make the case (or those citations you offered make the case) that 2009 belongs to Obama. Well, if you accept that, then federal spending is now lower than it was during Obama’s first year (2009)–which means that spending has fallen under Obama (see: http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2012/05/chart.html). Now, i suppose that you could argue that he is still a big spender, but you would have to acknowledge that he is bringing spending under control–there is no spending binge at all!

        Seriously, you can’t have it both ways.

        another way of looking at the question of government spending under Obama is to look at…well, …government spending under Obama. It has fallen during the first 3 years of the Obama Administration. This is the first time it has done so since Nixon. Now, of course, this is total government spending (federal, state and local), and most of the drop off has come in the state and local areas. But still, federal nonmilitary spending under Obama increased 8.3% in his first three years, compared to 8.2% under Bush II (in the first three years of his second term) and 14.1% under Bush II (the first three years of his first term).

        Here is the info:

        http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/05/04/business/economy/off-the-charts-shrinking-government.html?ref=economy

        Bottom line–Socialism is the idea that government should grow and take everything over. Look at the information here (facts) and you will see that Republican Presidents are Socialists, and Democrats are not.

        Obama is not a big spender. case proven. (again)

        Now, if you want to look at the causes of our debt, then you need to look at the following chart ( http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/05/obama-romney-deficit-debt-chart.php?ref=fpnewsfeed )

        The shortfall between federal income and federal spending can be attributed to a number of causes, and the biggest ones are the Bush tax cuts, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the economic downturn. Without these things, there would be no federal deficit–we would still be in the world that Clinton made for us, with revenues equal to or greater than spending. One thing that you might notice about those things is that they all happened before Obama became President. Obama’s policies are all about cleaning up the mess that he inherited from Bush.

      • So politifact has fact checked the Nutting article, and found it to be generally accurate. They conclude that spending under Obama has increased at the lowest rate of any president in the past 60 years (not adjusted for inflation), or, at the second lowest rate of any president in the past 60 years (if you adjust for inflation–and if you adjust for inflation, then the rate of growth under Obama is NEGATIVE).

        Oh, this means that Romney’s statements about spending under Obama are FALSE.

        http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2012/may/23/facebook-posts/viral-facebook-post-says-barack-obama-has-lowest-s/

      • Further, Politifact says that Mitt Romney told a whopper when he claimed that he reduced spending during his term as Governor of MA–Infact, Politifact found that spending increased about 5%/year under Romney (nominal spending–not adjusted for inflation)–a rate of increase higher than that under President Obama. (yes, i know it is apples and oranges–still, it sure doesn’t support Romney’s insinuation that Obama is a bigger spender than Romney–in fact, the reverse is true)

        http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2012/may/21/mitt-romney/mitt-romney-said-he-actually-cut-spending-massachu/

        Who really is the big spender? And who is honest enough to admit it?

      • I have no expectation that Romney as candidate and President isn’t going to distort his own record or try to associate himself with positive attributes that don’t really apply. I’m not under any illusion that Romney has a strong record of applying fiscal discipline to government. Conservatives have been enormously hesitant to embrace the somewhat false reality of Romney’s narrative. You might say that in contrast, conservatives are not wrapped up in a cult of personality.

      • Nutting’s Bush baseline from which Obama’s budget deltas are computed is FY O9 + TARP + some of the stimulus.

        This is a bogus way to do the math and understand the context. TARP was supposed to be one-time money. It didn’t represent normal ongoing federal outlays. Thus there is a proper argument that says you don’t count TARP in the baseline. Nutting does though, and quite obviously it’s to obfuscate that under Obama that TARP amount has been permanently incorporated into each year’s spending.

      • Nutting’s methodology bad, says WAPO.

        http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/the-facts-about-the-growth-of-spending-under-obama/2012/05/24/gJQAIJh6nU_blog.html

        Insofar as Politifact affirms Nutting… this goes to liberalism’s obsequious douchebag problem of which I spoke. Politifact is not unbiased. It’s a member Liberalism’s Douchebag Brigade, along with Jonathon Chait, Bill Maher, Ezra Klein, Matthew Yglesias, several others.

      • Erik, the most bizarre thing about your argument is your willingness to rely on the Washington Post (liberal yet you agree with it at this point in time) and label all that you disagree with as liberal douchebaggery.

        Why is it that giving something you disagree with a nasty label allows you to ignore it?

        Again, this is an example of ad hominem argumentation, and it is lazy. You are not engaging with the argument, you are not looking at facts, you are attacking the messenger because you disagree with what you are being told.

        Now, i will accept that that particular tactic works well on a place like Fox News or Powerline (I’ve been watching both of those places hyperventilate about this threat to one of their long running memes), but simply repeating your talking points here will not impress people, nor convince them of your ability to engage with facts (the actual point of this thread, if you remember). In fact, it has just the opposite effect–because your labelling, etc., only shows you resorting to fallacious reasoning

        I do appreciate your prior point about you being a jerk here on SRC–are you otherwise in different places?

      • The substantive observation that’s on the table is that Nutting’s baseline is bogus. That’s not an ad hominem.

        I am in agreement with WAPO on the merits. They have more credibility than Nutting or Politifact. There’s nothing bizarre in me citing them. You certainly wouldn’t allow me to credibly cite Fox news. The people who agree with Nutting are Jay Carney, Politifact, and the Democrat’s army of urbane apologists and sycophants. On the other side you have conservatives for sure, but also WAPO. In general, a more serious group of thinkers.

        When I say I’m not married to statistics, that’s more to say I also see things in literary terms and themes. Chait, Klein, Yglesias share some common attributes, notably smugness, obnoxiousness, sanctimony. In any event the attributes of this certain type of liberal guy appear together frequently enough that we could easily define an archetype. My name for this archetype is “obsequious douchebag”. It’s a definitional label rather than an ad hominem.

      • Erik, you missed the point regarding the Washington Post.

        The point is that, so far, the only analyst that, in your terms, was willing to cross the political lines, was a liberal analyst. Therefore, you are demonstrating the main point of this thread–conservatives play politics, while liberals pay attention to facts. Conservatives go down the party line, or become apostates (Frum, Sullivan, Bartlett, Fumento, etc.). This is not the case with liberals. The Washington Post is still a liberal player of good standing, despite the fact that it is willing to disagree with Obama and other liberals on a question of fact.

        On this instance, i happen to disagree with them–but their analysis, while critical of Nutting, still shows that Obama is not a big spender–certainly not in the league of prior Republican presidents.

        And that was the point I made earlier, which you were only too happy to elide–if you assign 2009 spending to Obama, then he spent more than Bush but spending decreased over his administration. If you assign 2009 spending to Bush, then Obama spent less than Bush, but spending increased during the course of Obama’s administration.

        Your first argument was that the 2009 stimulus should be assigned to Bush (” If you embrace Nutting’s argument, you embrace a calculation that says the stimulus package goes to Bush’s debit column. That’s not true, and you can’t rationalize it away.”)

        Now that you realize that doing so allows the argument that spending in fact decreased under Obama, you are criticizing this move as inflating the baseline (“Nutting took FY 09 + TARP and made that the baseline from which Obama budgets would be compared. That’s BS.”)

        And, of course, you haven’t responded to the second article, based on a separate economist’s analysis of presidential spending, that supports the general direction of Nutting’s work:

        http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/05/04/business/economy/off-the-charts-shrinking-government.html?ref=economy

        This one is better because it breaks down spending into federal military and nonmilitary spending trends–and Obama still is lower than all recent Republican Presidents. The only one who does better than Obama is Clinton.

        It isn’t just one study here that you can try to quibble with–the entire big spending myth is a lie–and what do you have to offer to support it, besides your tactile understanding of the situation.

        Oh, and by the way, here are a few more facts to bother you with–this is the first recession we have had in a long time where public sector employment has fallen pretty dramatically. Indeed, it is pretty clear from this that Reagan used a dramatic increase in public sector employment to end the 1981 recession. Nope, another lie that needs to be ended–Reagan did not slash government at all.

        http://www.businessinsider.com/reagan-recovery-was-all-about-big-government-spending-2012-4

      • Erik:

        is this an example of why Chait is an obsequious douchebag, in your opinion?

        http://nymag.com/daily/intel/2012/05/romneys-big-fat-wet-kiss-to-keynesian-economics.html

        because he has the temerity to point out the obvious contradictions in Romney’s positions? Because he is willing to show that Romney is now supporting Obama’s positions, and Keynesian economics?

        “Romney: Well because, if you take a trillion dollars for instance, out of the first year of the federal budget, that would shrink GDP over 5%. That is by definition throwing us into recession or depression. So I’m not going to do that, of course.”

        Yup, it sure sounds as if Romney is against cutting spending during a recession–but isn’t that what you and Congressional Republicans are criticizing Obama for not doing? Doesn’t it sound as if Romney is supporting Keynesian economics here?

        I think I’m beginning to understand your terminology here.

      • No. Chait’s insight within this article is fairly solid. He’s a dick generally. The problem with these dicks is they think they come off charming and smart. Thus, they’re douchebags as well.

        AP affirms Obama spending explosion.

        http://news.yahoo.com/fact-check-obama-off-thrifty-spending-claim-231221900.html;_ylt=A2KJ3CbkUcBPaDsADQ7QtDMD

      • Well, the AP analysis has plenty of its own problems, including that they use Douglas Holz-Eakins (McCain’s top econ adviser) as their “neutral” expert for this analysis. They, for example, assign all of the TARP stuff to Obama, but do not give any offset/credit for the TARP $$ that was paid back.

        So the AP analysis is the hardest on Obama–but even so, they conclude that spending rose 3%/yr during Obama’s first 3 years:

        “All told, government spending now appears to be growing at an annual rate of roughly 3 percent over the 2010-2013 period, rather than the 0.4 percent claimed by Obama and the MarketWatch analysis.” (http://news.yahoo.com/fact-check-obama-off-thrifty-spending-claim-231221900.html;_ylt=A2KJ3CbkUcBPaDsADQ7QtDMD)

        And to you, Erik, this is a spending explosion?

        See, that is what tends to shred your credibility here. A 3% average annual growth rate puts Obama lower than Reagan, Bush I, Bush II, and tied with Clinton. (see: http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2012/05/if-you-want-a-debt-and-spending-binge-vote-gop.html)

        Put your “spending explosion” in context–Obama is not a big spender.

        As another one of your favorites put it, Obama is a lousy socialist (Bill Maher)

  21. EVERYTHING is gray. Every company. Every government. Every person. Every law. Every rule. Every religion. Every moral. Every science. Even yes and no are gray.

    To me, the world frequently isn’t about left or right. It’s that some moron, whose brain can’t comprehend more than two pieces of data a time, insists that the world is simple and there are simple solutions. It is infintely complex. And people who can’t comprehend that are the social boat anchors in the world.

    • Hey… don’t you spend most of your time worrying that the proles enjoy sports too much?

      Yes, there’s gray. But there’s also truth.

      Go bone up on your Marx, Jeremy, and I’ll let you know when you’re good enough to have an argument with me.

  22. OK, new data on the Government Spending Binge that wasn’t–this time from the Federal Reserve:

    http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/06/federal-reserve-economic-data-chart-real-government-spending-obama-recovery.php?ref=fpnewsfeed

    bottom line–government spending increased significantly in the immediate aftermath of the 2008/9 recession (TARP, etc.), then fell precipitously. Overall, this has been the sharpest decline in total government spending in the past 50 years–and gives support to the Keynesian argument for why the recovery has been weak to non-existent (you don’t cut spending during a recession).

    • There hasn’t been cuts.

      The agreed on observation is, that Obama has hewed to a jacked up baseline. But we all disagree on who jacked up the baseline.

      I’m ceding the argument to you PM. Congrats. Mitt Romney is going to be President in January though.

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