Commentary Magazine


Topic: economic adviser

A New Day

Nothing like a once-in-a-generation political upset to shake up incumbents, right? Two developments demonstrate that despite White House denial, the rest of the political establishment is taking stock and making adjustments.

On the defection-from-ObamaCare front, Sen. Dianne Feinstein is the latest voice of sanity to pipe up. ABC News reports:

“I can tell you the situation has changed dramatically. And I think it’s a sweep across the country and I think that the (White House Economic Adviser) Larry Summers’s of the world have to see it, the administration has to see it and we have to see it. And therefore everything is jobs and the economy and education. People are worried about education,” she said.

“You see anger. People are worried. And when they’re worried they don’t want to take on a broad new responsibility,” like health care reform, she said.

Meanwhile, Republicans are assessing their opportunities and will put new pressure on incumbents who previously didn’t consider themselves vulnerable. Evan Bayh has had the luxury to vote with his liberal leadership while talking like a fiscal conservative back home. That may end. Hotline reports:

In the wake of winning MA, GOPers are looking to put 1 more state in play if they can convince House GOP Conference chair Mike Pence to run against Sen. Evan Bayh (R-IN). … The NRSC has polled IN, and their survey shows Pence in a competitive position, though he trails Bayh in initial matchups.

(I’m betting that polling will shift post-Brown as voters realize there are options to the status quo.)

Now maybe Feinstein can be sweet-talked by the White House into continuing on the ObamaCare jag. Maybe Bayh isn’t concerned about his re-election. But I doubt it. These are mature politicians who can read the election returns for themselves. The White House will have a tough time convincing them to pretend all is well and the only problem has been insufficient speed in passing a grossly unpopular health-care bill.

Nothing like a once-in-a-generation political upset to shake up incumbents, right? Two developments demonstrate that despite White House denial, the rest of the political establishment is taking stock and making adjustments.

On the defection-from-ObamaCare front, Sen. Dianne Feinstein is the latest voice of sanity to pipe up. ABC News reports:

“I can tell you the situation has changed dramatically. And I think it’s a sweep across the country and I think that the (White House Economic Adviser) Larry Summers’s of the world have to see it, the administration has to see it and we have to see it. And therefore everything is jobs and the economy and education. People are worried about education,” she said.

“You see anger. People are worried. And when they’re worried they don’t want to take on a broad new responsibility,” like health care reform, she said.

Meanwhile, Republicans are assessing their opportunities and will put new pressure on incumbents who previously didn’t consider themselves vulnerable. Evan Bayh has had the luxury to vote with his liberal leadership while talking like a fiscal conservative back home. That may end. Hotline reports:

In the wake of winning MA, GOPers are looking to put 1 more state in play if they can convince House GOP Conference chair Mike Pence to run against Sen. Evan Bayh (R-IN). … The NRSC has polled IN, and their survey shows Pence in a competitive position, though he trails Bayh in initial matchups.

(I’m betting that polling will shift post-Brown as voters realize there are options to the status quo.)

Now maybe Feinstein can be sweet-talked by the White House into continuing on the ObamaCare jag. Maybe Bayh isn’t concerned about his re-election. But I doubt it. These are mature politicians who can read the election returns for themselves. The White House will have a tough time convincing them to pretend all is well and the only problem has been insufficient speed in passing a grossly unpopular health-care bill.

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AP: Stimulus Is a Bust

The stimulus money to be spent on infrastructure really did nothing to save or create jobs. That’s not a conservative talking point; that’s the AP:

Ten months into President Barack Obama’s first economic stimulus plan, a surge in spending on roads and bridges has had no effect on local unemployment and only barely helped the beleaguered construction industry, an Associated Press analysis has found.

Spend a lot or spend nothing at all, it didn’t matter, the AP analysis showed: Local unemployment rates rose and fell regardless of how much stimulus money Washington poured out for transportation, raising questions about Obama’s argument that more road money would address an “urgent need to accelerate job growth.”

Obama wants a second stimulus, but what would be the point? (“AP’s analysis, which was reviewed by independent economists at five universities, showed that strategy hasn’t affected unemployment rates so far. And there’s concern it won’t work the second time.”) The reaction of economists is instructive:

“My bottom line is, I’d be skeptical about putting too much more money into a second stimulus until we’ve seen broader effects from the first stimulus,” said Aaron Jackson, a Bentley University economist who reviewed AP’s analysis.

Even within the construction industry, which stood to benefit most from transportation money, the AP’s analysis found there was nearly no connection between stimulus money and the number of construction workers hired or fired since Congress passed the recovery program. The effect was so small, one economist compared it to trying to move the Empire State Building by pushing against it.

Nor are business people impressed. (“‘The stimulus has not benefited the working-class people of Marshall County at all,’ said Isaac Zimmerle, a local contractor who has seen his construction business slowly dry up since 2008. That year, he built 30 homes. But prospects this year look grim.”) But politicians love this stuff. Despite ample evidence to the contrary, they continue to parrot the same rhetoric. Economic adviser Jared Bernstein insists, “When you invest in this kind of infrastructure, you’re creating good jobs for people who need them.” But not really.

What did we get for all this? Maybe some temporary jobs, especially in the public sector. But that’s a far cry from “creating” jobs. And we know by the unemployment figures that the Obami have been spectacularly unsuccessful in keeping unemployment to 8 percent, which they promised would be the result if Congress passed the stimulus plan. Maybe it’s time to stop repeating the same failed Keynesian policies and try something different. Lower taxes and fewer mandates on employers might be good for starters. But I think that’s not in the cards anytime soon. Well, not until the Democrats get really, really scared about the 2010 elections.

The stimulus money to be spent on infrastructure really did nothing to save or create jobs. That’s not a conservative talking point; that’s the AP:

Ten months into President Barack Obama’s first economic stimulus plan, a surge in spending on roads and bridges has had no effect on local unemployment and only barely helped the beleaguered construction industry, an Associated Press analysis has found.

Spend a lot or spend nothing at all, it didn’t matter, the AP analysis showed: Local unemployment rates rose and fell regardless of how much stimulus money Washington poured out for transportation, raising questions about Obama’s argument that more road money would address an “urgent need to accelerate job growth.”

Obama wants a second stimulus, but what would be the point? (“AP’s analysis, which was reviewed by independent economists at five universities, showed that strategy hasn’t affected unemployment rates so far. And there’s concern it won’t work the second time.”) The reaction of economists is instructive:

“My bottom line is, I’d be skeptical about putting too much more money into a second stimulus until we’ve seen broader effects from the first stimulus,” said Aaron Jackson, a Bentley University economist who reviewed AP’s analysis.

Even within the construction industry, which stood to benefit most from transportation money, the AP’s analysis found there was nearly no connection between stimulus money and the number of construction workers hired or fired since Congress passed the recovery program. The effect was so small, one economist compared it to trying to move the Empire State Building by pushing against it.

Nor are business people impressed. (“‘The stimulus has not benefited the working-class people of Marshall County at all,’ said Isaac Zimmerle, a local contractor who has seen his construction business slowly dry up since 2008. That year, he built 30 homes. But prospects this year look grim.”) But politicians love this stuff. Despite ample evidence to the contrary, they continue to parrot the same rhetoric. Economic adviser Jared Bernstein insists, “When you invest in this kind of infrastructure, you’re creating good jobs for people who need them.” But not really.

What did we get for all this? Maybe some temporary jobs, especially in the public sector. But that’s a far cry from “creating” jobs. And we know by the unemployment figures that the Obami have been spectacularly unsuccessful in keeping unemployment to 8 percent, which they promised would be the result if Congress passed the stimulus plan. Maybe it’s time to stop repeating the same failed Keynesian policies and try something different. Lower taxes and fewer mandates on employers might be good for starters. But I think that’s not in the cards anytime soon. Well, not until the Democrats get really, really scared about the 2010 elections.

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Can the Obama Administration Afford Any More Missteps?

As problems continue to mount and the president’s approval ratings continue to sink — the latest Rasmussen poll has Obama’s approval rating down to 44 percent, a new low — there are a lot of different, and damaging, story lines developing around the Obama administration. You can add a lack of basic competence to the list.

To take just one example from yesterday: on NBC’s Meet the Press, White House economic adviser Christina Romer was asked if the recession was over. Her first answer was that according to the “official definition … I think we have, at least in terms of GDP, reached that point” — before she then added qualifiers, inviting a follow-up question. When Romer was then asked, “So in your mind, this recession is not over,” she answered, “Of course not. We have — you know, for, for the people on Main Street and throughout this country, they are still suffering. The unemployment rate is still 10 percent.”

Now compare that answer with what Lawrence Summers, director of the National Economic Council, said on ABC’s This Week: “Today, everybody agrees that the recession is over, and the question is what the pace of the expansion is going to be.” (Apparently “everybody” does not include Summers’s colleague Christina Romer.)

This is what is known as sending mixed messages; to have it done by two of the Obama administration’s leading economic spokespersons on a basic economic issue makes it all the more harmful.

The dazzling intellect and multitasking mastery of those who inhabit Obama’s World seem to be producing something less than was advertised. You can add to this the much more serious misplay by Harry Reid on his Medicare buy-in “compromise,” which has been soundly rejected by Senators Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson, two key votes Majority Leader Reid needs if he hopes to pass health-care legislation. Reid’s effort to portray health care as “inevitable” — and his effort to pressure Lieberman into supporting legislation that the Connecticut senator clearly finds unacceptable — has not only failed; it has badly backfired. And as if determined to make a bad tactical mistake even worse, Reid’s aides are now trashing Lieberman as a person who broke his word. That is something that strikes me as not only untrue — I have worked with Senator Lieberman over the years and always found him to be a man of integrity — but bordering on insane. Why do they want to attack the character of a man whose vote they presumably still need?

Governing involves missteps; that is an inherent by-product of exercising power and needs to be factored in when judging an administration. Still, add these incidents to others and you have a picture emerging of an administration and a party that are not only overmatched by events but that also look downright pitiable at times. This is the kind of thing, especially so early in the life of an administration, that can easily become a proxy for a wider inability to govern. Come 2010, voters are likely to extract a cost for this.

As problems continue to mount and the president’s approval ratings continue to sink — the latest Rasmussen poll has Obama’s approval rating down to 44 percent, a new low — there are a lot of different, and damaging, story lines developing around the Obama administration. You can add a lack of basic competence to the list.

To take just one example from yesterday: on NBC’s Meet the Press, White House economic adviser Christina Romer was asked if the recession was over. Her first answer was that according to the “official definition … I think we have, at least in terms of GDP, reached that point” — before she then added qualifiers, inviting a follow-up question. When Romer was then asked, “So in your mind, this recession is not over,” she answered, “Of course not. We have — you know, for, for the people on Main Street and throughout this country, they are still suffering. The unemployment rate is still 10 percent.”

Now compare that answer with what Lawrence Summers, director of the National Economic Council, said on ABC’s This Week: “Today, everybody agrees that the recession is over, and the question is what the pace of the expansion is going to be.” (Apparently “everybody” does not include Summers’s colleague Christina Romer.)

This is what is known as sending mixed messages; to have it done by two of the Obama administration’s leading economic spokespersons on a basic economic issue makes it all the more harmful.

The dazzling intellect and multitasking mastery of those who inhabit Obama’s World seem to be producing something less than was advertised. You can add to this the much more serious misplay by Harry Reid on his Medicare buy-in “compromise,” which has been soundly rejected by Senators Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson, two key votes Majority Leader Reid needs if he hopes to pass health-care legislation. Reid’s effort to portray health care as “inevitable” — and his effort to pressure Lieberman into supporting legislation that the Connecticut senator clearly finds unacceptable — has not only failed; it has badly backfired. And as if determined to make a bad tactical mistake even worse, Reid’s aides are now trashing Lieberman as a person who broke his word. That is something that strikes me as not only untrue — I have worked with Senator Lieberman over the years and always found him to be a man of integrity — but bordering on insane. Why do they want to attack the character of a man whose vote they presumably still need?

Governing involves missteps; that is an inherent by-product of exercising power and needs to be factored in when judging an administration. Still, add these incidents to others and you have a picture emerging of an administration and a party that are not only overmatched by events but that also look downright pitiable at times. This is the kind of thing, especially so early in the life of an administration, that can easily become a proxy for a wider inability to govern. Come 2010, voters are likely to extract a cost for this.

Read Less




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