NDN Blog

GOP = Amtrak: Discuss

A scathing review of the Woodward book in this weekend's Post caught my eye. Not least for this paragraph, and especially the zinging final line:

In crisis after crisis, the government simply failed to operate the way it was designed to. Memos failed to circulate or arrived after they became irrelevant. Briefings conveyed only the news that listeners wanted to hear. Controversial information was rarely presented to the president, who rarely asked for it. New proposals were quashed, and policy was stymied by terrible infighting, or worse, indifference. On point after point, the government's performance was over budget, unapologetic and late. In other words, the Bush administration has become the new Amtrak.

And if it needed ramming home quite how obviously the wheels have come off this particular train, this morning's Post poll is quite extraordinary. I was especially struck by the +6 lead on terrorism, and the strong, strong presumption of a Foley cover-up. It seems that this scandal has done what the Democrats themselves haven't quite been able to pull off - portraying the Republicans as the corrupt, out-of-touch embodiment of nasty politics-as-usual. But, as Simon says below, beyond the ferocious spinning, it is clear that people knew Foley was a problem, did nothing about, and have been scrabbling to invent a half plausible explanation as to why. So this judgement - even Amtrak would do a better job than these guys - doesn't seem unfair.


Betting on Nancy

More bad news for Dennis Hastert. Tradesport, the online betting market, now gives the Democrats a .57 probability of taking back the House.

UPDATE:  After today's stunning series of polls, it appears i spoke too soon. At the market's close today, the odds had risen to .6 - the highest since trading began. 

A Backlash against the Netroots Backlash

A long, interesting and spirited defence of the role and importance of the Netroots, from the latest Boston Review.

The New York Times columnist David Brooks writes that Kos “fires up his Web site . . . and commands his followers, who come across like squadrons of rabid lambs, to unleash their venom on those who stand in the way.” The New Republic senior editor Lee Siegel (now suspended) warns portentously of the dangers of “blogofascism,” a movement bearing worrying similarities to the Fascist forces that transformed post–World War I Europe into a “madhouse of deracinated ambition.” ... These claims are hysterical to the point of near-incoherence. They’re also wrong. The netroots are becoming a power in the Democratic Party, but they aren’t under the control of any one person or clique.

After fending off the critics, the piece also has a few ideas about what comes next.

Creating a coherent ideological agenda will be far harder for the netroots than opposing Republicans or turncoat Democrats like Joe Lieberman. But it offers enormous political possibilities. The “new” union movement of the SEIU and the Change to Win coalition provides one example of how it might be done. As prominent netroots bloggers recognize, the SEIU has a lot in common with the netroots—it aims to replace a top-heavy structure with a more dynamic and aggressive approach to union organizing. But it is also providing organizational firepower and intellectual input for John Edwards’s campaign to change the economic message of the Democratic Party, and to make it more attractive to voters whose economic interests have been trampled by Republicans and their enablers.

For an excellent overview of what the bloggers are all about, have a look at the video of Kos giving his take on the story of the blogs, at NPI's shiny new website.  

North Korean crisis made in the White House.

From the National Security Network, a helpful overview of the policy behind news from Korea. 

Under President Bush significant ground has been lost. When he took office, North Korea was adhering to a negotiated freeze on plutonium and may have possessed enough plutonium for one nuclear device. Since then, North Korea may have more than quadrupled its stock of weapons-grade plutonium and breached all previous constraints on its program. Under the Bush administration, North Korea has expelled international nuclear inspectors, withdrawn from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and produced enough new weapons-grade plutonium for a number of nuclear weapons.

Slow Day on the Jobs

Disappointing job creation figures out today. The rule of thumb is that the economy needs something in the region of 150,000 to keep pace with the rate of population growth. So this morning's 51,000 is unusually slow, even for an economy which has been adding only in the region of 100-180k jobs monthly of late. Although it is unwise to divine anything in particular from only one month's figures, the cumulative result is clear, as this analysis today from CBPP shows. Check out especially the second graph. 

Krugman - War on Wages

Paul Krugman is - excuse the pun - waging war. And his use of Wal Mart as an example of exactly how companies chose to depress paypackets is interesting. (I'm quoting here from Mark Thoma's longer extract.)

The problem from the company’s point of view, then, is that its workers are too loyal; ... not enough workers quit before acquiring the right to higher wages and benefits. Among the policy changes the memo suggested to deal with this problem was a shift to hiring more part-time workers...

And the strategy is being put into effect. ... Wal-Mart ... wants to transform its work force to 40 percent part-time from 20 percent.” Another leaked Wal-Mart memo describes a plan to impose wage caps, so that long-term employees won’t get raises. And the company is taking other steps to keep workers from staying too long: in some stores, according to workers, “managers have suddenly barred older employees with back or leg problems from sitting on stools.”

Krugman's remarks put into practical view something that Rob Shapiro has discussed before - how company's are forced to depress wages in order to remain competitive in the face increased competition:

The first effect of an increase in competitive pressures is that companies find it harder to raise their prices, even when their costs increase. For example, health insurance and energy costs have risen by more than 60 percent since 2001, and pension costs have gone up sharply as well for many of them. When a firm’s costs increase and competitive pressures prevent it from raising its prices enough to cover those cost increases, it has to find other costs to cut – and most have turned to jobs and wages. And that’s what’s been happening in the United States.

And, as NDN has been saying for a while, this is is why this happens. So good job to Krugman for keeping the pressure on.



Pelosi, the economy and the missing $5000

The FT this morning highlights Nanci Pelosi banging the economy drum.

Speaking at Georgetown University in Washington, the Democratic leader, who represents San Francisco on Capitol Hill, said most Americans had suffered income stagnation in the past five years. But she avoided giving a clear diagnosis of why that had happened.

“There are those who will say that our economy is successful for everyone because corporate profits are the highest share of GDP in 50 years,” said Ms Pelosi. “But the incomes of middle class families have declined for five straight years . . .  People are working more productively than ever but their purchasing power is down. The cost of everything – from housing to healthcare to energy – is tightening the middle-class squeeze.”

Although it has been criticised for lacking in depth, the Democrat party’s economic platform appears to be tapping into widespread economic anxiety among voters that is expected to help the opposition party at the polls in November.

All of this is to the good. As we pointed out in last week's memo on the economy, it isn't just the median family has lost roughly $1250 in income under the President. It s that if trend rate of income growth under Bush had matched four comparable years under Clinton, the median family would be more than $5000 better off.

CAP / SEIU Shows "Middle Class in Turmoil"

Those billionaires are back, but this time they aren't so keen on Bush. The DOW might be shooting up, but for the first time an influential survey of business chiefs has found that a majority expect the economy to decline next year. There was also more bad news yesterday, when Ben Bernanke gave his official blessing to the tanking housing market. There is a some danger now that President Bush's last years in charge of the American will involve questions more testing than: "things are going well - why don't i get any credit?" But on that very issue, an important and interesting report came out from CAP and the SEIU last week - Middle Class in Turmoil. It adds to Jacob Hacker's work, which uses increased risk as an explanation for the public's economic bad cheer, and lays out various new measures on why middle class families have insufficient savings to cope with bad luck, or bad circumstances. They use a composite indicator, and use it come up with this graph , showing a sharp decline in middle class security.

Much of this comes from issues well known to NDN - inadequate demand begets slow job creation begets less than full employment begets stagnant wages and incomes, all compounded by a sharp increases in many consumer product prices. But CAP add various other stats, in particular that the number of American families with 3 months of income in liquid financial wealth fell by 6.2% from 2001-2004, while the number of families who could sustain themselves through unemployment decreased from 39.2% in 2001 to 28.8% in 2004. The report shows CAP and their allies at their best when turning out well researched yet politically relevant analysis. It is well worth a read.

Calls For Hastert To Go

A good round-up of "hastert must go" calls from the excellent Democratic Strategist.

First there was the Washington Times, not exactly the intellectual vanguard organ of the conservative movement. Now, however, the higher-browed conservative opinion leaders have begun to weigh in. Bloomberg.com quotes Tom Winter, editor-in-chief of the conservative weekly magazine Human Events :"We think the Republicans need new leaders, and I don't think Hastert will be there much longer...I think he has to do this for the team, he has to step down."

Maggie Gallagher can’t resist getting in a few licks against the Democrats en passant, but she gets to the point in her National Review Column “Hastert Must Resign,” as does NRO National Economics Editor Larry Kudlow in “Step Aside, Speaker Hastert: This goes way beyond Foley.”


Google Chief on Internet Politics

Google Chief Eric Schimdt was speaking at the conference of the UK Conservative Party yesterday, and had some interesting warnings for politicians.

Many of the politicians don't actually understand the phenomenon of the Internet very well," Schmidt told the Financial Times. "It's partly because of their age ... often what they learn about the Internet they learn from their staffs and their children." The advent of television taught political leaders the art of the sound bite. The Internet will also force them to adapt. The Internet has largely filled a role of funding for politicians ... but it has not yet affected elections. It clearly will."


Syndicate content