Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

One Measure to Determine Whether a President Was a Success or a Failure

Some years ago, Michael Kanell and I wrote a book called Presimetrics in which we tried to quantify the performance of Presidents along a range of issues objectively, using numbers. But what if we want a single measure of a Presidents performance? Put another way – how do we know whether a President was a success or a failure?

I was born when Nixon was in office, though admittedly, I wasn’t paying all that much attention to politics at the time. But if I had to categorize Presidents in my lifetime as successes or failures, I would say Clinton was the most successful, followed by Reagan. Here’s why.

Off the top of my head, Clinton’s key achievements were these: creating conditions for or at least not standing in the way of a booming economy, generating a surplus, NAFTA, FMLA and welfare reform. Some of them may not look as good a decade and a half later, but that is true of anything. Nevertheless, on Clinton’s signature achievements, his opposition has either sought to claim some or all of the credit for them (e.g., the surplus, the economy, and welfare reform) or quietly accepted the issues as part of the status quo going forward.

With Reagan, we see the same thing. His signature issues were tax cuts, a growing economy after years of stagnation, a detente with the USSR (“tear down this wall,” some nuclear dealing, and getting the Soviets to leave Afghanistan) and instilling a general feeling that it was, indeed, morning in America and that the US was back in business. These were accomplishments that Reagan’s opposition sought to either claim would have happened anyway (e.g., a general deterioration in the USSR, the end of stagflation) or quietly adopted as a new status quo (e.g., tax cuts may have risen since Reagan – even under his Republican successor, but no Democrat in Congress or the Presidency has pushed for rates to go back to pre-Reagan levels). Of course, there were a few things that nobody, most certainly not the Democrats, wanted any part of, the big one being the explosion in the debt. The whole Iran-Contra Affair was another example.

So Reagan and Clinton were successful precisely because their opponents wanted a share of their success, and neither took many actions whose outcomes the political world wanted to keep at a distance.

On the other hand, consider GW and Obama. Nobody in opposition wanted (or wants) to claim any part of the credit for their signature issues. And nobody wants to claim that the Bush tax cuts, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Great Recession, the Mediocre Recovery, whatever the heck happened in Libya, or Obamacare was inevitable.

As the old saw goes: success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan.

Previewing Blinder and Watson (2015)

by Mike Kimel

Previewing Blinder and Watson (2015)

Via James Hamilton at Econbrowser, I read about this paper by Blinder and Watson. From their abstract:

The U.S. economy has performed better when the President of the United States is a Democrat rather than a Republican, almost regardless of how one measures performance. For many measures, including real GDP growth (on which we concentrate), the performance gap is both large and statistically significant, despite the fact that postwar history includes only 16 presidential terms. This paper asks why. We find that the answer is not found in technical time series matters (such as differential trends or mean reversion), nor in systematically more expansionary monetary or fiscal policy under Democrats. Rather, it appears that the Democratic edge stems mainly from more benign oil shocks, superior TFP performance, and more optimistic consumer expectations about the near-term future. Many other potential explanations are examined, but they fail to explain the partisan growth gap.

Having co-authored a book on how Presidents performed on a wide range of issues, including the economy, it’s nice to see some high-powered academics stumbling on some of the same relationships we found. However, attributing very much to oil shocks doesn’t make sense. See, if oil shocks are a big driver, then depending on how one chooses to define an oil shock and the lags one selects, we should either have seen rapid growth during the tail end of the GW and start of the Obama administration (the price of oil was about $1.70 per gallon at the end of 2008 and start of 2009), or we should be seeing it now several years into our wonderful world of fracking. Since even Larry Kudlow stopped bleating about the goldilocks economy in December of 2008, I’m guessing it won’t come as a shock to anyone that the economy was pretty dismal in 2008 and 2009, and hasn’t been anything beyond mediocre at any point since.

So here’s what’s going to happen. Blinder and Watson are going to write another paper in which they tell us what is really driving economic growth. If I had to guess, it will come out November 2015. Let me give you a preview of that paper because it’s going to be one of the pivotal papers of the decade. The most important table in the paper Blinder and Watson will write in November 2015 will look kinda like this:

(click to enlarge)


by Mike Kimel


I think you have to go back to Bob Dole in 1996 to find a Republican nominee for for President whose signature accomplishment wouldn’t be repudiated by most members of his own party in November 2012. The 2000 and 2004 nominee is best known for turning a surplus into a deficit (although most current Republicans approve of the way he did it, cutting tax rates, increasing military spending, and launching two wars) and was kept discretely away from the last Republican National Convention. The 2008 nominee is best known for the McCain-Feingold Act, and the 2012 nominee, of course, will forever be tied to Romneycare. As to Bob Dole in 1996, well, I couldn’t remember him having any signature issues so I googled him. Google took me here but I still didn’t find anything that really said “Bob Dole” to me.

Sure, he agreed or disagreed with all sorts of things, but he wasn’t the champion of any and there wasn’t anything he was really known for. The 1988 and 1992 nominee, George Herbert Walker Bush, these days is best remembered for ending the first war in Iraq without taking out Saddam Hussein or taking Baghdad and for “read my lips, no new taxes.” Breaking that promise got him excoriated by Republicans. Reagan seems to be the most recent Republican nominee for President of the US who has a signature issue that remains popular with Republicans today.

As the co-author of  Presimetrics,  a book on Presidents, their policies, and the effect of those policies; I’ve talked to a lot of people of all stripes about Presidents, and Republicans today simply don’t seem to approve of most former Republican presidents, or at least their policies. Before Reagan was Ford, best remembered for pardoning Nixon and Whip Inflation Now. Nixon is best remembered for Watergate, going to China and meeting Mao, and price controls. Eisenhower for big government programs. Hoover, for being the hapless fellow who had recently become President when the Great Depression began.

At first I thought that says something about today’s Republican party. And perhaps it does. Perhaps it indicates the party’s values today are very different than they ever have been.

But it also may serve as a warning to Obama. I’ve pointed out before that except for one or two issues (Obamacare and Supreme Court justices he’s nominated), Obama’s first term has looked an awful lot like the third term of GW Bush would have looked. Tax rates remain low, the percentage of personal income going to taxes is down and the bail-out is basically an extension of Paulson’s bazooka. In four years, four long years, Obama hasn’t managed to figure out a single new approach to dealing with the economic mess that wasn’t pioneered by the guy who got us into the hole in the first place! The same is true of most other aspects of the Obama presidency. Policies on civil liberties are essentially the same as they were under GW. The “good war” in Afghanistan is still going on, and the war that was getting increasingly inconvenient (even the folks at the National Review had managed to figure out there was a problem by 2007 leading to the death of the “painted schoolhouse” anecdotes) was ended discretely, with everyone pretending that Iran wasn’t firmly in the driver’s seat. Foreigners, at least the non-Pakistani ones, seem to like Obama, but that’s more because there’s less bluster about “with us or against us” – actual policy remains very similar, complete with a down-to-the-bone inability to distinguish friend from foe.

Obama seems to have been re-elected not with enthusiasm among Democrats, but rather due to a sense that Romney was even worse. Part of that came from a feeling that Romney’s views on business weren’t really about business, they were just about profiting from loading companies up with debt, as if that approach to running the government hasn’t been championed by every President we’ve had since 1980 other than Bill Clinton. And truth to tell, a lot of the foreboding about Romney came not so much from Romney, who at some point stood for everything and anything, and thus stood for nothing at all, but rather from the particularly in-artful downticket comments (think Akin or Mourdock) on “legitimate rape” (???, !!!!!) and abortions. Most Democrats and many independents aren’t happy with Romneycare, er, Obamacare. They see it as a distant second or third best compared to the socialized medical systems of every industrialized country that produces better healthcare outcomes than we do, and at lower cost to boot. The one bit of actual enthusiasm for Obama might have come on the gay rights side, as a growing number of younger voters in much of the country don’t have the bias against openly gay people that remains strong among social conservatives, particularly the older generations. But even there, the camel’s nose entered the tent during the previous administration – most Republicans were smart enough not to piss off Dick Cheney by criticizing his daughter.

All of which is to say, Obama is potentially headed down the Republican presidency path in more ways than one. Despite his re-election, unless Democrats are infinitely more forgiving than Republicans, Obama might eventually become his party’s George Bush- the name nobody wants to mention, the face nobody wants to see at campaign stops, and the legacy nobody wants to remember. The longer he follows the same policies as his predecessor, the greater the likelihood he will be viewed the same way by his own party’s posterity.

A lot of Democrats seem to believe that now we’re going to see the “real Obama.” I hear Democrats say that Obama isn’t constrained by the need for re-election any more, and he has realized that rolling over and playing dead doesn’t make Republicans or Wall Street like him any better. Perhaps that’s true, perhaps the next four years will be different, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Its been my experience that in general, people don’t change that much. If he’s been behaving a certain way for four years, it is very likely we’ve seen the “real Obama.”

GOP didn’t like the study on impact of tax cuts on economic growth

by Linda Beale

GOP didn’t like the study on impact of tax cuts on economic growth

The Congressional Research Service has long been respected as a non-partisan research organization that does in-depth studies as requested by Congress.  But when those non-partisan studies produce results that don’t jive with the right-wing mythology about tax cuts as the cure-all for slow economic growth, the right goes on the attack.

On September 14, 2012, the Congressional Research Service released a report by Tom Hungerford on the impact of tax cuts on economic growth.  Tom Hungerford,Taxes and the Economy: An economic analysis of top tax rates since 1945 (CRS, Sept. 14, 2012).

Advocates of lower tax rates argue that reduced rates would increase economic growth, increase saving and investment, and boost productivity (increase the economic pie). Proponents of higher tax rates argue that higher tax revenues are necessary for debt reduction, that tax rates on the rich are too low (i.e., they violate the Buffett rule), and that higher tax rates on the rich would moderate increasing income inequality (change how the economic pie is distributed). This report attempts to clarify whether or not there is an association between the tax rates of the highest income taxpayers and economic growth.

This was an update of a report by Jane Gravelle and Donald J. Marples, Tax Rates and Economic Growth, CRS (CRS Report R42111) and so was not an attempt to rewrite that report but to look only at the top tax rates. 

The Hungerford study didn’t find a correlation between lowering top tax rates and economic growth, but it did find one between lowering top tax rates and increasing inequality.

The share of income accruing to the top 0.1% of U.S. families increased from 4.2% in 1945 to 12.3% by 2007 before falling to 9.2% due to the 2007-2009 recession. The evidence does not suggest necessarily a relationship between tax policy withregard to the top tax rates and the size of the economic pie, but there may be a relationship to how the economic pie is sliced. Id.

That is in fact what one would expect, and increased inequality has its own harmful effects on the economy.
On September 17,  the Heritage Foundation squawked about the Hungerford study.  See Congressional Research Service Wrongly Implies Lower Tax Rates Don’t Strengthen Economy, Heritage Foundation (Sept. 17, 2012).  Heritage acknowledges that the Hungerford report looks at a “slew of time periods” but it claims that the “simplistic correlations prove nothing.”  Id.  It suggests that since no two timeframes can be exactly the same, the correlations are meaningless.  If only the study had been tweaked the way the Heritage Foundation would have tweaked it, it would have supported Heritage’s position that lower tax rates on the top produce economic growth, it suggests.

But this is itself a simplistic analysis. The complaint that the paper didn’t take all the variables into account is a red herring.  The study offered a simple correlation study–looking just at the tax rates and economic growth, does a pattern emerge upholding the GOP view that tax cuts stimulate growth or not.  The answer is “not”.  Now, there are lots of other variables that could be considered–global warming, military involvement, and decaying infrastructure are all likely relevant to how we should spend our resources and likely also have a significant impact on the economy.  But self-serving assumptions about the “dynamic” effect of tax cuts are not.  For the broader view on tax rate analyses, Hungerford refers the reader to the 2011 Gravelle paper.  The problem with economic analyses in the market fundamentalist approach is that the answer can be manipulated by tweaking the selected data points, the time lag between policy and a change point, the way the discount rate is chosen, or whatever.   The Heritage position confuses savings and investment, missing the point that when interest rates are already down, savings can’t have much impact in reducing interest rates to make investment more attractive.

The  outcome of the right’s attack on a CRS study that came to a result it didn’t like is worrisome.  Instead of noting the limited goal of the paper (to see if there were correlations over time of tax rates and economic growth), the CRS yielded to pressure and pulled the study. See Jonathan Weisman, Nonpartisan Report Withdrawn after GOP Protest, New York Times (Nov. 1, 2012). The withdrawal was counter to the recommendation of the service’s economic leaders. That says that CRS is vulnerable to pressure from those who want a study to show a particular outcome.  And that is not good.

cross poseted with ataxingmatter

Disappearing inconvenient data

Via Barry Rithotz at The Big Picture comes Bruce Bartlett’s take on

Bruce Bartlett and the dangers of Republican know-nothingism 

Bruce Bartlett goes off on some of the denialist behavior from the GOP. Bartlett writes: When a study doesn’t support their dogma, the GOP censors it: Nonpartisan Tax Report Withdrawn After G.O.P. Protest

Original study still available here: Taxes and the Economy: An Economic Analysis of the Top Tax Rates Since 1945 (PDF)

Bartlett discussed how Republicans destroyed much of Congress’s analytical ability when they took over in 1995: Gingrich and the Destruction of Congressional Expertise
He adds “This is part and parcel with poll denialism, global warming denialism, and the general right wing disdain for facts and reality.”

Note: Before making any kneejerk partisan reaction to this, note that Bartlett — Like Stockman and others — sre not trying to mske a pro-Democrat argument; rather, they are acknowledging a major societal concern when one of the 2 major political parties have foresaken science and reality and facts when they disagree with their agenda.

(Dan here…I am willing to bet this is a non-partisan issue to some extent and age old way of supporting agendas…but if data cannot be trusted to have a bit of independence, where does that leave us?)

The 1964 Tax Cuts and Economic Growth – Paul Ryan Edition

by Mike Kimel

The 1964 Tax Cuts and  Economic Growth – Paul Ryan Edition
During last week’s Vice Presidential debates, Paul Ryan stated: “Jack Kennedy lowered tax rates, increased growth.”
There was some commentary about Biden’s response (“Oh, now you’re Jack Kennedy.”) but just about everyone seems to miss what I think is the important point. Take a look at the graph below:


The so-called Kennedy tax cuts occurred in 1964, the year following JFK’s assassination, and were pushed through by Lyndon Johnson. Now take a look at 1964, and consider the likely outcomes when people who
think events in 1964 “increased growth” determine tax policy.  Data on real GDP from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the government agency responsible for computing the series.

Cactus and his merry band of madmen…and Megan McArdle

I googled the title phrase and ‘Behold!’, here are the three links.  Mike also sent them.

Cactus and his merry band of madmen and Megan McArdle

Megan McArdle has a question

Megan McArdle has a question:

What happens to the cottage industry among Democratic-leaning armchair economists grinding out analyses proving that Democratic presidents are, like, totally awesome for the economy? Presuming that we’re stuck–as seem very likely–in at least a couple of years of really grinding low-to-no growth, Obama is going to destroy their figures. Are we in for a resurgence of belief in exogenous growth factors?

Question answered

Now, of course, it may be that the economy starts growing like gangbusters in the next year.  In which case I expect that Cactus and his merry band of madmen will continue with their arguments.  But if, as most people expect, growth continues to stall for the next few years,  it seems I can look forward to more explanations of why Democrats–and only Democrats–can be thrown out of the sample if they have low growth and betray The Faith; and why the economic results of Democratic presidential administrations–and only Democratic presidential administrations–are sensitive to exogenous starting conditions.

Response to Megan McArdle again

“Going back to 1952 at least, every Democrat, every single one, has increased the tax burden. Every single Republican lowered them.”-McArdle

I had some posts after that, perhaps time to revisit them, that showed that not only did the change in the tax burden correlate with growth, the change in the tax burden in the first two years of an administration’s term correlated with the growth rate in the final six years. And not in the direction McMegan likes to see. Sure, correlation does not imply causality, but it just so happens that Presidents under whom growth in years 2 – 8 was fastest also were the Presidents who found a way to go back in time to years 1 & 2 and raise the tax burden. Or something like that. Go figure.   

Tax cuts and economic growth

Of course see Mike Kimel’s Presimetrics, familiar to most AB readers, and posts at Angry Bear can be listed here

Paul Krugman write on the meme:

Dooh Nibor

Update: And the Romney people respond with deep voodoo, invoking the supposed fabulous growth effects from his tax cuts. And who could argue? Remember how the economy tanked after Clinton raised taxes? Remember how great things were after Bush cut them? Oh, wait.
More seriously, we have lots of empirical work on the effects of tax changes at the top — and none of it supports the Romney camp’s claims. What we’ve just learned is that they were faking it all along. There is no plan to offset the tax cuts; Romney is just intending to blow up the deficit to lavish favors on the wealthy, then use it as an excuse to savage Social Security and Medicare.

by Mike Kimel

A Partial Review of Bulls Bears and the Ballot Box
by Bob Deitrick and Lew Goldfarb

A couple of years ago, Michael Kanell of the Atlanta Journal Constitution and I wrote Presimetrics. In it, we looked at how Presidents did on a wide range of issues – everything from abortions to the national debt. We measured performance the same way for every issue – looking at how things changed from right before an
administration took office to right before it left office, and in each case, we got the data from the most objective source available. Our approach was imperfect, but by maintaining consistency in how we approached each issue, we tried to be as unbiased as possible. And on many issues, we found that Presidents did well tended to follow similar policies to other Presidents that did well on the same issues,
and likewise, the Presidents who did poorly on the issues also tended to have similar policies to other Presidents who did poorly on the issues.

The book got virtually no press so almost nobody ever heard of it, and it didn’t sell all that well, which is obviously too bad for both me and Michael Kanell. But what I think is too bad for most Americans is
that the notion of trying to put an objective measure on the performance of our politicians hasn’t caught on. Sure, there are the various “think tanks” purporting to do just that, but they seem to start with a conclusion and work their way backward to justify that conclusion. I find that sort of thing less than useful.

As a result, I was pleased to hear from reader Susan M. about a new book entitled Bulls Bears and the Ballot Box: How the Performance of OUR Presidents Has Impacted YOUR Wallet by Bob
Deitrick and Lew Goldfarb.

 I didn’t find a copy at my local bookstore, so I ordered a copy online and it just came in the mail. I’ve read through the first two chapters already, its an easy, interesting and informative read. It ranks Presidents on their economic performance (from the perspective of the national economy, individuals’ wealth, and business prosperity), and then comes up with an overall ranking.

The rankings produced by Deitrick and Goldfarb in Bulls Bears and the Ballot Box come out a bit different from those Michael Kanell and I produced in Presimetrics as they don’t use all of the same measures we employ (and vice versa), but the conclusions they reach aren’t that different. Provided you aren’t
deliberately torturing it, on average the data says what the data says. Whether or not you read Presimetrics, I heartily recommend Bulls Bears and the Ballot Box. The world will be very different if we start following the spirit of books like this and making an effort to measure the performance of our leaders as objectively as possible… and then holding our leaders accountable for their performance or lack thereof.

Variations on "Only Nixon Can Go to China"

by Mike Kimel

Variations on “Only Nixon Can Go to China”

This is not a short post. Be forewarned.

A few years ago, I co-authored a book called Presimetrics with Michael E. Kanell, a reporter for the Atlanta Journal Constitution. In the book, we tried to take an objective look at how Presidents performed on a wide range of issues – everything from abortion to the national debt. To achieve that objectivity, we did two things. The first was to always get data from the most objective source we could find. Thus, when looking at the murder rate, we obtained our data from the FBI. The second thing we did to try to maintain objectivity was to treat each series exactly the same way – looking at how the series changed from right before a President took office to right before he left office.

We got almost no press and the book didn’t do well – perhaps in part because we tried so hard to keep our opinions and biases in check. Additionally, the book had plenty in it to anger everyone, regardless of their political persuasion. (Yes, more often than not, the facts have a liberal bias… but on a few issues near and dear to liberal hearts, they don’t.)

Still, I learned a lot from working on the book. And while Presimetrics is about facts, I want to talk about something subjective. As the old saw goes, only Nixon can go to China. But there’s a corollary – once Nixon goes to China, everyone else can.

And there have been plenty of visits to China in the past few decades. Depending on your political views, you might like some and not others but whatever you might think of them, each of them has created a precedent.

Once the country got used to top marginal rates in the 90 percent range, only an economically liberal President could cut tax rates, particularly since the previous time the country had undergone significant tax cuts (from 75% in 1920 down to 24% in 1929) we had the mother of economic disasters. But once LBJ did cut the top tax rate from 90% to 70%, the door was opened and it took only a few decades for us to reach a point where top rates of 39% are described as socialism.

The next Democrat in the Oval Office, Jimmy Carter, set other precedents that affect us today – perhaps the biggest of which was deregulation. Nixon himself visited at least one other China – there may have been politics behind it, but he created the EPA and made the environment a legitimate issue. The air is cleaner, and rivers aren’t on fire in Ohio any more as a result of that particular visit to China.

Sometimes going to China only applies to one party. The Republican Party used to be somewhat pacifist, or at least non-interventionist. The leading candidates for the Republican nomination for President in January1940 – Taft, Vandenberg & Dewey – were all isolationists. Wilkie, the eventual nominee, was all over the map, but a big part of his campaign was accusing FDR of having a secret plan to get the US into WW2.

The first post-WW2 Republican President, Ike, sent advisers to Vietnam but little more. His military policy seemed to be maintaining the “status quo” to the point where he slapped down the British, French, and Israelis over the Suez. Ike also famously warned America of the threat posed by the military-industrial complex. The next Republican President, Nixon, pulled out of the Vietnam War. It wasn’t until Reagan invaded Grenada that it became kosher for Republicans to militarily intervene in other countries, but since then, Republican Presidents have given us Panama, Gulf War 1, Afghanistan, and Iraq. If the last two had been successful, you could bet American troops would be sitting in military bases in Iran today.
Here’s another single Party visit to China… after WW2, every single President until Gerald Ford presided over a decrease in the national debt as a share of GDP.

That changed with Ford… and every single Republican President beginning with Ford increased the national debt as a percentage of GDP. Each and every single one: Ford, Reagan, Bush 1 and Bush 2. A look at Romney’s economic plan makes it obvious he would fit right in. (If you have any doubts on that point, note that he’s already signed up both Greg Mankiw and Glenn Hubbard as “economic advisers” and then go back and check on their record.)

For a few reasons, increasing the debt wasn’t a precedent for Democrats – and both Carter and Clinton paid down debt, but now, with Obama laying a new course (it’s one thing to increase the debt, it’s a whole other story when that debt is expanded mostly by bailing out industries that have behaved irresponsibly), perhaps we can expect both parties to act like drunken sailors going forward.

Obama has been visiting other Chinas too. Despite LBJ’s tax cuts, in recent decades Democrats have concluded that tax cuts might not be good for the economy when tax rates are “too low.” (Not an unreasonable assumption – the top marginal tax rates fell from 75% to 24% between 1920 and 1929, and we all know how that turned out. Most of us also remember the last time top marginal rates dipped below 30%.) Obama has made it clear that he believes that low taxes are good for the economy, and the only reason he might consider raising the top marginal rate is because “we can’t afford it.”

Obama has also perfected a new political technique for Democrats – the pre-emptive surrender from a position of strength. The fact that he faces an argumentative Congress is not an excuse – he was doing it even when his own party controlled both houses of Congress! Besides, Clinton had an obstreperous Congress to deal with too, and he generally triangulated his way toward whatever he wanted.

Here’s a China that Obama can go to that Bush 2 wanted to visit but couldn’t… “fixing” Social Security. Obama has already laid some of the ground work, what with the payroll tax cut as stimulus, the Social Security commission, and some other odd noises coming out of his mouth. Expect more reluctant progress “fixing” Social Security from a second Obama term than Romney would manage, despite Romney’s enthusiasm for that sort thing.

Which leads us to one more extension of the Nixon going to China rule… a visit to China doesn’t count if it gets immediately repudiated. The Bush 1 tax hikes were immediately repudiated by Republicans. Reagan almost did just that with the Department of Education (created by Jimmy Carter), but then he appointed the wrong flunky to oversee its destruction.

Obama, on the other hand, seems to have not refuted, but rather continued the new precedents set by GW Bush. Homeland Security, spying on Americans, security theater in airports, economic stimulus geared toward rescuing the worst offenders at whatever cost, refusal to hold anyone accountable for what would normally be considered criminal behavior during the financial meltdown, keeping tax rates low, etc., etc., etc., etc. Other than the low taxes, many of these policies would have been a stretch for Republicans pre-GW, but it is pretty clear that Romney wouldn’t reverse course on any of them. The Republican Party’s precedent has been established and confirmed. It won’t be changing.

On the other hand, in theory, Democrats can still go back to being in favor of balanced budgets, higher taxes, more spending on social issues, and accountability for white collar crime. The Democrats can still go back to favoring policies intended to benefit the little guy. (I note, as per Presimetrics, I note that intention doesn’t always make something true in reality and some of the recipes Democrats traditionally follow don’t work, just as some of the recipes Republicans traditionally follow don’t work.)
But these are all approaches that run counter to what Obama has been doing. If Obama’s policies aren’t repudiated quickly, they become precedent, carved in stone. From a practical perspective, the trip to China has to be untaken now, or not at all.

My conclusion from all of this is a very contrarian one: if you voted for Obama in 2008, you will be best-served voting against him in 2012. On the other hand, if you voted against Obama in 2008, you will be best-served voting for him 2012. And yes, I’m serious, though I don’t expect too many people to believe me.

This post was written in response to this.