NDN Blog

Dick Cheney Takes Aim At The Slowing Economy

The economy isn't doing well. This we know. Figures yesterday showed ever more evidence of a housing slowdown. Stocks took a tumble as a result. Paul Krugman, noticing the same McMansion decline i discussed yesterday, took a swipe at housing gloom today. As if this isn't enough, today we had the most tellingly indicator of all. The Editorial page of the Wall St Journal ran had a big piece trying to put the housing decline squarley within the context of past monetary policy. Put another way, they judged the decline in house prices as sufficiently politically dangerous that they needed to try and find a way not to blame the President.

The Journal is now a key indicator of economic bad news. So wedded are they to Bush administration, that they feel compelled to defend even the worst performing parts of the economy. Amid mounting evidence of a slowdown, they returned last month to their concept of the "Dangerfield Economy", named after Rodney Dangerfield, and so coined because the economic expansion gets "no respect.' And recently their place on the fringes of mainstream economics has been confirmed by repeated denials of the Phillips Curve, the orthodox economic view that a short term trade off exists between growth and inflation.

Bottom line: if the WSJ says something isn't the President's fault, you can be almost certain it is. And if they say the economy deserve respect, its time to buy abroad. But - hey! - don't take our word for it. Ask Dick Cheny. Since its friday i thought it'd be ok to link to a fun report on Alternet claiming that our sharp-shooting Vice-President is busy moving his private wealth into foreign securities to avoid the coming downturn in the american economy. I'm not exactly sure what the piece means when it says "in markets that do not fluctuate based on the U.S. dollar". Any foreign denominate security must eventually be sold back to earn dollars, so their value depends on the exchange rate. Nevertheless, if the Vice-President thinks that the economy is in the tank, then perhaps the more aggressive reccesion forcasters might not be so far off?

"This is a Development for Democracy..."

Hat tip to Simon for pointing this my way... It's a great article in the Post describing political protest and activism in the Philippines using mobile text messaging... It is a facinating case study, as the Philippines mobile network is much more advanced than their land line Internet. The entire article is amazing, but here are some snippets...

"Cellphones and text messaging are changing the way political mobilizations are conducted around the world. From Manila to Riyadh and Kathmandu protests once publicized on coffeehouse bulletin boards are now organized entirely through text-messaging networks that can reach vast numbers of people in a matter of minutes.

The technology is also changing the organization and dynamics of protests, allowing leaders to control, virtually minute-by-minute, the movements of demonstrators, like military generals in the field. Using texts that communicate orders instantly, organizers can call for advances or retreats of waves of protesters.

This tool has changed the balance of political power in places where governments have a history of outmuscling dissent....

Every major Philippine political party and nonprofit group has a database of its supporters' cellphone numbers. Many use computers to automatically generate mass text mailings to those phones with news about issues or rallies or upcoming votes....

"Before, we had no choice but to keep quiet and listen to the president," Palatino said, still holding his tiny phone. 'This is a development for democracy.'"

They are in serious trouble

A front page Post piece this morning was devastating for the Administration.  In plain simple language it made the case that Bush was finally recognizing that our work in Iraq was in serious trouble, and if anything was much likely to worsen this fall. 

Also likely to worsen this fall is the economy.  Some say slowdown, some say recession.  Whatever happens, it is happening now, and will likely worsen as we approach November. 

It has been my belief for a long time that elections are fought primarily on peace and prosperity.  The sober reality for Republicans now is that on the two most salient issues facing the nation, the Middle East and broadly shared prosperity, their record has been dismal; and conditions are more likely than not to get a whole lot worse before the elections.  And there is very little Bush and company can do about it. 

Which is why this is shaping up not to be an anti-incumbent year, but an anti-Republican one.  All polling shows that people believe the nation is headed in the wrong direction and appropriately blame those in power, which in this case are the Republicans.  Few Democratic incumbents are endangered in Congress or in Gubernatorial races.  Meanwhile many Republican seats are in serious jeopordy in the Senate, the House and in Statehouses.  If it was an anti-incumbent year more Democrats would be in trouble.  They aren't. 

The tide has turned hard against the Republican Party.  And it is about to get a whole lot worse. 

The No Benefit Economy

Robert Reich packs a big brain in a small body. And he has been using it to good effect to explain the mystery behind public dissatisfaction with the economy. As you might expect, it doesn't really take all of Reich's grey matter to come up with the answer:

Rarely before in history has the American economy grown so nicely without most Americans sharing in the growth. Corporate profits are fatter than they've been in years. What corporations aren't using for investment they're awarding to their top executives or distributing to their shareholders. The top one percent of income earners, gleaning over $750,000 this year, are doing wonderfully well and are quite happy about the economy. The typical family -- with stagnant income, a house that's no longer a piggy bank, and higher fuel bills -- is not. Hence the real disconnect.

Obvious, when you think about it. Strange the President hasn't figured it out yet. Perhaps he is too busy with his faintly implausible summer reading list?

Republican learning curve on the new reality of bottom-up video

The front page of the San Francisco Chronicle has a column on the recent run of Republican gaffes now brought to the nation via user-generated video. The New Politics Institute’s Theo Yedinsky is quoted above the fold on the paper edition. The story recounts how Senator George Allen, Senator Conrad Burns, and Florida Congressional Candidate Tramm Hudson have blundered their way into the national spotlight by being caught on video saying dumb things that ordinarily would have gone unnoticed.

I do not think it is a coincidence that this is happening more to Republicans. It’s not because Democrats don’t (occasionally) say dumb things. It’s more that the phenomenon of bottom-up video is playing to progressive strengths. The progressive blogosphere is much more active, innovative and powerful than the conservative one. The Millennial generation, those young people who are most into video-blogging, etc., are also trending much more progressive. And progressive politicos are more attuned to the sensitivities of different groups because diversity and tolerance have been hallmarks of progressive politics for decades. I also think progressives, for better or worse, are more used to the rough and tumble of more open forums and debates.

So I think these early stages of the development of bottom-up video in politics will largely benefit progressives. The conservatives, as they tend to do, will be relatively fast followers and adapt to the new realities, probably by trying to maintain more control and throwing money at the problem. But for a while, the conservatives are going to be knocked around a lot. It will be interesting to watch.

Peter Leyden


Piolín among most powerful people in Southern California

In the Los Angeles Times' West Magazine, Eddie "Piolín" (or Tweety Bird) Sotelo ranks as one of the 100 (the 3rd youngest by my count) most powerful people in Southern California. His radio show, "Piolín por la Mañana", has an audience that "beats Howard Stern, Rush Limbaugh and Tom Joyner every weekday morning, according to Arbitron ratings" (Washington Post, April 30th, 2006). Once more, the power and potential of Spanish-language media is recognized. NDN, of course, has understood this since 2004 and continues to speak to Hispanics via our "Mas Que un Partido" media campaign.

Simon and Joe met with him in California. (Shameless plug: Piolín is holding his "Democratas Unidos" jersey, which you can order from us here)

West magazine writes:

Eddie "Piolín" Sotelo
Spanish-language deejay; 35, Los Angeles

When Congress threatened to crack down on undocumented immigrants, Sotelo—L.A.'s top-ranked morning deejay—gave organizers of a proposed pro-immigrant rally four hours on his program on KSCA-FM (101.9). Sotelo then worked with KBUE-FM (105.5) host Ricardo "El Mandril" Sánchez and others to pump up the volume. Urging protesters to carry American flags and to be peaceful, the deejays summoned half a million or more to L.A.'s streets.

Iraq: How much worse is enough?

Its a grim day in Iraq. But isn't every day? Perhaps the damning headline of the war is on the front page of this morning's Post - Bush's New Argument on Iraq: It Could Be Worse. I'm not sure how. The article is pretty devastating for anyone retaining a positive view of the war's future. I'm going to go along to this intriguing looking event at the New America Foundation at lunchtime - Moral Clarity and the Middle East: Long War, Wider War, or the Return to a Peace Process? - to see how much longer the long war can be expected to drag on. I can't think its going to be uplifting. I'll report back later. 



Free Trade Falls, Protection Creep Rises

These are worrying times for free trade. Back in the dog-days of the 1990s, Republican commentators would wax alarmist about the danger's of "mission creep" during international peace keeping operations. Get into Somalia, they would say, and you'll suddenly be there for years. The rise of protectionism works in much the same way. Without any grand vision on the future of liberalization since "time out" was called on the Doha round, "protection creep" is going to be all around us in the months up to the election. In the FT this morning, we have the latest development over attempts to politicize the CFIUS process of green-lighting foreign investment. Reform proposals were introduced following the Dhubai Ports debacle earlier in the year. Current congressional overhaul plans are the worst of both worlds. They stand a good chance of lessening foreign investment and doing little to increase American security. Much better, as the National Foundation for American Policy suggested recently, to avoid alarmist legislation in the first place. Elsewhere in the FT the reliably sane Guy De Jonquires details exactly what happens when Protection Creep sets in. The problem? His depressing conclusions about the way forward.

When gardens are neglected, weeds sprout. The withering of the Doha trade round has led, predictably, to a flourishing crop of alternatives. Washington has claimed more recently that its use of muscular bilateral trade diplomacy will re-energise the multilateral system by unleashing a wave of "competitive liberalisation". The Doha debacle has exposed that theory for what it is. In practice, bilateralism has fed off itself, intensifying the rush into preferential deals while draining energy from the Doha talks, polarising the US Congress and further diminishing its appetite for trade initiatives of all descriptions..... In the absence of strong leadership, regional trade talks simply rake over the same problems that have proved insoluble in other forums..... So, has trade liberalisation hit the buffers? Not necessarily. One "plan B" has proved its worth: it is for governments to stop leaning on each other to open markets and do it by themselves.

What a mess. The remaining hope for liberaliztion under President Bush is the pie-in-the-sky wish that countries will decide to open markets uniltaerally. Meanwhile protectionism is everywhere on the rise. Creeping up on us we have CFIUS, the upcoming row over China's currency, further potential WTO rows with China over IP, the review of the GSP, and the likely decision by the President to give up on Doha without asking congress to renew his trade negotiation authority. Add to this to strong likelyhood of electioneering politicians wheeling out open markets as election year cartoon villain. Unless supporters can come back with a grand vision for the future of trade liberalization, battling back Protection Creep one inch at a time seems to be where the battle will lie. NDN will be making our contribution to trying to promote such a vision in the coming weeks.

Rate the miracle: 60 Books vs 10 divisions

In a new, very occasional feature on the NDN blog, we present the Lunchtime competition. Today's question: which of the following stories do we believe less ? The miracle of the President's reading habit, or the miraculous progress being made in the middle east? First up: President Bush Renaissance Man from US News and World Report.

President Bush now wants it known that he is a man of letters. In fact, Bush has entered a book-reading competition with Karl Rove, his political adviser. White House aides say the president has read 60 books so far this year (while the brainy Rove, to Bush's competitive delight, has racked up only 50).

Second up, Republican Senator James Inhofe from Oklahoma on the situation in Iraq (via CAP).

Contrary to most reports, Inhofe said, many Iraqis are pleased about the U.S. intervention. "Iraqi security forces now number 275,000 trained and equipped," he said. "The commanders in the field and the Iraqis say when this reaches 325,000, that would equal 10 divisions..... What's happened there is nothing short of a miracle."

Answers on a post card.

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