Brandon Vindicated (and Relieved!)

I read a lot of blogs in my spare time, and one of my favorites is the Monkey Cage, a blogging consortium made up of technocratic, internationalist-minded Left-wing political science professors. They rarely disappoint. I know what you’re thinking, but if I could choose which faction of the left I would want opposing libertarian policies it would be the technocratic Left. It a movement that has individual liberty in mind and is, as I mentioned, internationally-minded.

Notice also how I take into account the fact that an opposition to my own views are a necessary component of my utopia. Too many advocates of liberty don’t realize this when they argue about politics. Which factions would play the role of opposition in an anarcho-capitalist paradise, for example? It seems to me that the quality of one’s perfect opposition is actually quite a good gauge for measuring the quality of one’s political ideal (if I do say so myself!).

Anyway, Patrick Egan, of NYU, has a new post up explaining that the economy was indeed the central issue of the election, and then busts out the data to back up his argument (and help me save face!). I think this is an important point because I’ve already made the rounds around the blogosphere and many otherwise smart, competent people seem to want to chalk up Obama’s victory to something other than the economy.

From Egan’s post:

Barone’s analysis [a “smart, competent” person] sums up much of the conventional wisdom about the results of the 2012 presidential election that has crystallized among pundits across the political spectrum.  Most versions of their explanations go something like this: the fundamentals were in the Republicans’ favor, but the Democrats overcame them with better ads, a better “ground game,” successful appeals to a racially diverse electorate, or a better candidate.

These observations make for interesting and colorful post-mortem accounts of the campaign, but they start from a premise that happens to be false.  By September, the fundamentals had improved enough to make Obama a slight favorite.

The “fundamentals” Egan is referring to are “the economy,” broadly stated. Here is the bad news, though, and think about why it’s such bad news for a minute after reading:

The growth rate between January and September of 2012 averaged 1.8 percent.

I’m not one to complain about such a low growth rate in an already rich and prosperous state. This seems totally normal, but I am going to complain about my fellow Americans lack of optimism here. How on earth can the American people settle for a 1.8% growth rate, even if it is standard for states as rich and prosperous as the US?

I have yet to find any analysis on the unemployment rate either. Unemployment actually jumped up a tick just before the elections to 7.9%, and this is not a bad rate when one takes a gander across the globe, but this is also an official rate and doesn’t incorporate workers who have given up or have been looking for an extended period of time.

There is also no evidence whatsoever that the stimulus packages have worked. I am beginning to think that the stimulus packages were nothing more than political ploys. That is, something for politicians to show to the American people that they were indeed “doing something”. A few hundred billion dollars isn’t all that much money when you control people’s lives through taxation and monopoly. Don’t bother letting me know that when politicians do something it means bad results. Bother yourselves instead by asking if politicians were merely responding to incentives. Does the majority of American society now expect politicians to do something during an economic crisis? If this is the case, then we have our work cut out for us.

So my question in regards to the economy and the re-election of an incompetent buffoon is this: have the American people begun to settle for something other than the best? Or is this something that older observers have been seeing since they were young men and women?

13 thoughts on “Brandon Vindicated (and Relieved!)

  1. I think that the Democratic party has nurtured certain groups of our society to depend on big government to meet all their needs. So many people just expect Uncle Sam to be, to use Rush Limbaugh’s, term their Santa Claus. This was not the way it was in decades past when people grew up with a strong work ethic and didn’t expect to have anything handed to them. I think it started with Franklin Roosevelt and it has now become generational–in that–grandma relied on government handouts and mom did and this is the way life should be. Many segments of society haven fallen prey to this twisted thinking that politicians have encouraged because it means big bucks for them.So they voted of Obama because they think he will increase their handouts when in reality he is doing no such thing and if our economy keeps going in the tank he won’t be able to do it. People in some cities and in our state of Illinois are beginning to realize that when the money runs out -it runs out–then what?

  2. As a liberal Obama supporter, perhaps I may suggest a couple of things, not to argue but just to try to clarify the differences between our points of view, the presuppositions which tend to make us mutually incomprehensible.
    I would certainly like to see a much higher growth rate than 1.8%. I just am not persuaded that we can get one by following libertarian/conservative policies. (One could say that for us it’s not the economy, it’s the economics.) I and those of my ilk believe – rightly or not, I really am not here to argue – that sustainable growth is not possible without considerable government investment. We do not believe that the private sector, following market incentives alone, can be counted on to build necessary infrastructure, provide the education needed to allow all Americans to participate fully in the economy, keep us all healthy enough to do so. We fear that it will just go for short-term profits and leave us stranded. We do not see this as being about “handouts” or “wanting stuff” for ourselves only as individuals; we are operating rather from a model in which government represents (or should represent) all of us pooling our resources and working together to build things that we can not do as atomized individuals. Also we’ve got this thing about “social justice” and “compassion,” but just speaking for myself I’m more pragmatic than moralistic in my overall approach. I understand and respect the fact that your camp (rather than just being all “bad people” as some of us think) really believes that our model is simply not viable and will not produce the results we want; and if I could be persuaded as a matter of fact that you are correct, and that laissez-faire on the other hand can in fact better offer a rising standard of living to all rather than spiraling profits for a few only, I would certainly consider joining you. But merely repeating the stereotypical views we have of each other will not help, and in any case I am too well brought up to engage in it here on your site… (I also understand that at least for some on your side, what you consider “economic freedom” really is primarily a moral issue; Rand herself if I remember correctly wrote that while she certainly believed laissez-faire did work and its alternatives did not, this was not its justification. But that’s a different issue, which I am also willing to clarify my views on if desired.)

    • Also we’ve got this thing about “social justice” and “compassion,” but just speaking for myself I’m more pragmatic than moralistic in my overall approach.

      Ah. And there you have it folks: leftists care about other people, libertarians and conservatives do not. What else is there to say?

    • Now now. I thought I made it clear that while many on my side do think that we have the moral high ground, I myself am quite willing to believe that you care about other people as much as we do, and simply have a notion of what’s good for them that we consider unrealistic.

    • But of course! I am a guest in your cyber-home so to speak, and I was brought up to be polite.
      I find it interesting though that of all the things we on the Left say and do and think about you, it is this perception of condescension that people seem to pick up on most often. (Including a couple of RealSpace friends of mine who complain about it all the time.) I could hardly deny that such a thing exists, but looking at it from the inside, condescension seems to me a very minor strain in our complex of reactions. More common among the people I know are a sense of outrage at the harm we (whether or not correctly) believe to be done by the policies your side advocates, and a simple failure to grasp how sincere intelligent well-meaning people can think the way you do. Personally I find it useful to dampen the sense of outrage, as it tends to contribute to the lack of comprehension…
      Anyway that’s probably all I have to say here, at least on this thread.

    • Allogenes,

      You first came here to clarify, not argue, but, truth be told, you have done neither in your first few attempts here. I hope you come back for more, but when you do, try to understand that the writers on this blog, as well as your fellow readers, don’t need any clarification from anybody. If they do want clarification, they will ask for it.

      As for the misunderstandings between Right and Left, Dr. McCloskey has nailed it better than anybody I know (and it’s short, too!).

    • Well, I at least have learned a thing or two from this exchange, and sincerely thank you for the opportunity! And also for pointing me to the McCloskey piece; I’m going to enjoy thinking through it (and the appended comments) in days to come.

  3. Love the blog, thanks for having it. However, I disagree, I don’t believe that the economy was the central issue. I voted for Gary Johnson, I have friends of many political persuasions. I know several women who voted for BO because they were scared by the Republican discourse on abortion. These women are not natural liberals or Democrats. They would have voted for a pro-life candidate even though they are pro-choice. They voted for BO even though they are in the group of people he wants to tax and tax hard! They also chose to vote for Democrats in the congressional races because they did not want the Republicans having ANY power. Why? Because more than one Republican said stupid, ignorant, biologically implausible statements about women’s bodies, rape, and abortion.

    I think there are more women than just the ones I know who voted for BO solely because of the abortion issue.

    I get the feeling that younger voters don’t actually care that much about the economy, that it is social issues that move them to vote.

    • Hi Desiree,

      Thanks for stopping by, and your own blog is quite good as well.

      I also know many women who said they didn’t vote for Romney because they were scared of his anti-women policies, as if a former governor of Massachussetts educated at Harvard harbored any notions of repealing Roe v. Wade!

      If we tried to analyze the world according to the opinions of our friends rather than hard data, we would be analyzing from anecdotal evidence, would we not?

      The original post I linked to explains why the economy was and always will be the central issue governing politics, and not something else. From the post:

      These observations [women voters being scared of Romney] make for interesting and colorful post-mortem accounts of the campaign, but they start from a premise that happens to be false. By September, the fundamentals [economy] had improved enough to make Obama a slight favorite. The figure below plots the incumbent party’s share of the two-party presidential vote against the average growth rate in the nation’s GDP over the three quarters preceding the election. Separate regression lines trace the relationship for years when an incumbent was actually on the ballot (like 2012) and those when he was not (like 2008).

      You can read the rest here.

  4. Bitch slapped by facts! Thanks, I needed that. I) Just because Roe v. Wade won’t be overturned, doesn’t mean that people don’t think that it will. Or, at least get worked up pretending to think that it will. 2) I will look at your facts and keep an open mind. I’m not sure I agree right now, but I am willing to change my mind.

Please keep it civil

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