According to congressional aides and administration officials, Rice will be making the rounds on Capitol Hill this week for closed door meetings with key lawmakers whose support she will need to be confirmed... A senior Senate aide said the administration was trying to measure the strength of the Republican opposition to a Rice nomination, sounding out the more moderate members of the Foreign Relations Committee such as Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who is in line to become the panel's top Republican next year, and Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.
Republicans called her nomination doomed, leading to a vigorous defense of her by Obama in his first post-election news conference. But since then, GOP lawmakers seemed to have softened their views. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who said earlier this month that would he do everything in his power to scuttle a Rice nomination, said on Sunday that he was willing to hear her out before making a decision. McCain ally Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has also eased his opposition and said he is usually deferential to presidential cabinet picks.
Perhaps the Obama Administration is gauging just how intense Republican opposition will be not just to a Rice nomination, but to Obama politics in general. The softening of McCain's rhetoric - usually staunch once the Senator has made up his mind - is particularly noteworthy.
The Benghazi terrorist attacks were followed up with Ambassador Rice's appearance on talk shows to indicate that the Obama Administration thought the attacks were "spontaneous" and the result of anti-American protests sparked by a YouTube video.
A one-year extension of the employee-side payroll tax cut was passed in December of 2011. It's scheduled to lapse along with the other fiscal cliff policies in 2012. This is a particularly popular tax cut because it goes by and large to lower- and middle-income Americans. Payroll taxes, however, are the way that Social Security gets finances. Foregoing that revenue will only make it worse.
Social Security's finances are permanently in the red. It was in 2010 that benefits paid exceeded revenue collected for the program - and the program is never projected to recover. Cutting payroll taxes further will only worsen the coming Social Security crisis.
As the CBO's trust fund analysis shows, Social Security deficits in 2013 and 2014 are projected to be $58 billion. An extension of the payroll tax cut will cost $205 billion, borne entirely by new Social Security deficits.
This is not to say that the payroll tax cut is not a good idea. The Congressional Budget Office projects that cutting payroll taxes over the next two years will create between 300,000 and 1.3 million jobs. This could be quite an economic boom at the expense of the solvency of the Social Security program.
Additional cuts to the payroll tax also run the risk of becoming a semi-permanent drain on Social Security's revenue stream. In the wake of last year's payroll tax cut, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said "I don't see any reason to consider supporting its extension" into 2013. What looked like a distant possibility now looks like an inevitability.
“This has to be a temporary tax cut. I don’t see any reason to consider supporting its extension” in 2013, Geithner said at a Senate Budget Committee hearing.
Geithner said he supports the extension through the end of 2012, saying lawmakers had taken a “critically important” step toward helping the economy when they struck a deal to extend jobless benefits and a payroll-tax cut.
As we all know, the payroll tax cut is up for renewal in the package of policies that comprise the fiscal cliff. An extension would cost over $200 billion over two years and would worsen the finances of Social Security. The White House has been noncommittal on extending the payroll tax cut, but Democrats in Congress like Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.) have been adamant about its extension.
First, the total cost of these policies, in billions of dollars. As it's easy to see, the extension of the Bush tax cuts do the most damage on the revenue ledger of the federal government. Total extension costs $750 billion over two years, while the Democrats' favored policy of extending all but the top rates costs $670 billion. The other major tax provision - an extension of the payroll tax cut - would be an additional $258 billion over two years. The policies on the spending side of the ledger are far smaller in total than the tax provisions.
However, there are definite upsides to the costs of all of these programs. The tax provisions, due to their sheer size, would likely have the greatst economic impact. On the left hand side of this chart is each policy's effect range when it comes to GDP, and on the right side is each policy's effect on employment.
What's important to take into account, though, is the per-dollar effect of all of these policies. As noted above, the tax cut policies would have the largest economic effect mostly because they're the largest portion of the fiscal cliff. When it comes to getting bang-for-your-buck, the defense spending scheduled to take effect in the sequester is, in the CBO's estimation, actually the most valuable part of the fiscal cliff.
Finally, the CBO produced a nifty, pretty infographic that summarizes the total effects of the fiscal cliff. One of the really important parts is at the bottom - "implications for future policy decisions" - which notes the incredible effect that the additional debt will have on the budget and on the economy.
“I don’t really understand why Republicans don’t take Obama’s offer to freeze taxes for everyone below $250,000 — make it $500,000, make it a million,” Kristol argued. “Really? The Republican Party is going to fall on its sword to defend a bunch of millionaires, half of whom voted Democratic and half of them live in Hollywood?”
This line of thinking is becoming increasingly common amongst Republicans and conservatives nowadays. Progressives in the media are encouraging President Obama and Democrats in Congress not to bail on the game of chicken and just allow the set of policies that encompass the fiscal cliff to come to pass and then retroactively deal with the problems created. If that's the case, Republicans might have little to bargain for - but the progressives might still find that Republicans have a little fight in them yet.
Hah! Those dumb conservatives, they all vote for Mitt Romney. And they're dumb. Well, now that we've all confirmed our elitist preconceived biases about conservatives, it's off to the wine bar to celebrate eh?
Not so fast. (Obviously. Why would you be readin this otherwise?) Pretty much every exit poll shows very little correlation between education and electoral outcomes. Here are the graphics that accompany CNN's exit polling on education.
There is only one category here that correlates with level of education: postgraduates. President Obama won those who didn't attend high school, those who didn't attend college, and postgraduates. Here's a news flash: Obama won the election, so he won slightly larger perecentages of everyone. In fact, as education level increases, tendency to vote for President Obama decreases until you get to the postgraduate level. This is largely unsurprising when you consider that one of President Obama's major supporter groups - teachers' unions - consists almost entirely of members who have some sort of postgraduate education.
This sort of infographic is the kind of lazy attempt at snarky humor that actively misinforms people. And it's embarrassing to draw conclusions here - there is nearly a zero level of correlation between formal education and electoral choice.
The Washington Post's headline is "Spending by independent groups had little election impact," and documents how groups like American Crossroads spent hundreds of millions of dollars to little effect. Traditionally progressive-aligned groups like the SEIU's elections arm, on the other hand, had great success in backing candidates who won. Big Government's Mike Flynn has a piece along these lines:
Enormous financial resources were wasted by the GOP's consultant class. The GOP brand itself has been badly tarnished. Over the coming weeks, we will shine a spotlight on this consultant class. We will even name names. Its long past time the GOP rids itself of its own internal corruption.
There might be a different effect at work here: when it comes to just money, amounts don't particularly matter. University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt has studied campaign expenditures and found that they have very little effect on the business of winning elections:
What Levitt’s study suggests is that money doesn’t necessarily cause a candidate to win — but, rather, that the kind of candidate who’s attractive to voters also ends up attracting a lot of money. So winning an election and raising money do go together, just as rain and umbrellas go together. But umbrellas don’t cause the rain. And it doesn’t seem as if money really causes electoral victories either, at least not nearly to the extent that the conventional wisdom says.
It could be the case that many of these candidates and campaigns were poorly run - GOTV failures, for example - but it has little to do with the money. It's difficult to say that wealthy donors were ripped off because their money wasn't spent wisely. It's more likely that wealthy donors were ripped off because money isn't what wins elections.
Chris Christie isn't too popular among conservatives in the wake of his response to Hurricane Sandy last week, but the above clip from Ann Coulter is illustrative of where the conservative movement and the Republican Party was less than two years ago. Republicans lost, and they lost decisively last night with Mitt Romney at the top of the ticket. The recriminations have already started - was Romney too moderate or did the GOP establishment sell out too much to please the conservative base? - but the more immediate question at hand is what will the GOP do with the levers of power at its disposal and what kind of positive agenda will they lay out for the future.
The media is going to breathlessly focus on how the Republican party can "fix its demographic problem," but it's important to remember that most pundits' analysis can be boiled down to "politicians should do more of what I like." Most pundits have no clue what the median swing voter thinks like or is concerned about. Responsible advice usually has an element of sub-optimal policy offered because no single pundit's genuine agenda would perfectly align with a persuadable American voter.
In lieu of strategic advice, what-ifs involving other candidates or lists of GOP candidates to focus on for the future, here's a reading list of diverse sources - most of whom I have major disagreements with - who nonetheless have sophisticated critiques to be made of the current Republican Party and conservative movement as well as positive agendas that should be palatable for conservatives in the future:
Conservative Survival in the Romney Era by Philip Klein. An indictment of the team-player mentality of some of the conservative movement and a struggle with how to come to grips with a Republican Party that so often must settle on sub-optimal candidates, Conservative Survival in the Romney Era by the Washington Examiner's Phil Klein is valuable even though the Romney Era is, for all intents and purposes, over.
From Poverty to Prosperity, by Nick Schulz and Arnold Kling. A non-ideological look at what creates economic development across different countries, this book is a must-read for economic policymakers. (It's on my list to re-read as well; I could use a refresher course on its insights.)
Righteous Indignation by Andrew Breitbart. I disagree with Andrew Breitbart about a great many things, but he has crafted a powerful and cohesive criticism of the modern media. Faced with an industry dominated by liberals who treat conservatives unfairly, Breitbart explicitly advocates treating the media and the left the same way. It's a powerful critique that rests upon the radical intractability of the moern media, and Andrew Breitbart was its most effective advocate.
Grand New Party by Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam. Published in 2009 but possibly more relevant than ever, Douthat and Salam put together a platform that they believe holds the key to a demographic realignment of the parties; one that holds more appeal for working-class Americans and could be the key to a new and long-lasting GOP coalition.
A Capitalism for the People by Luigi Zingales. Conservatives too often get caught up on the defense against progressive criticisms of capitalism. Zingales lays out the case that capitalism can and should be most beneficial for the people progressives purport to care about - the poorer and less fortunate. It's more impotant for conservatives to make the positive case for capitalism as the best welfare program in human history rather than be put on the defensive about corporate profits and inequality.
A Time for Governing, edited by Yuval Levin and Meghan Clyne. National Affairs has become, in the Obama era, one of the foremost journals of right-leaining public policy solutions. Too few politicians embrace what has been written about in its pages - but perhaps more of them should. This best-of compendium is an excellent introduction to the journal for those who have not previously been exposed.
After the Fall: Saving Capitalism from Wall Street - and Washington by Nicole Gelinas. One of progressivism's long-lasting critiques of conservatism is that a conservative policy idea may have made sense in a pre-2008 financial crisis world but no longer. The Manhattan Institute's Nicole Gelinas has one of the best accounts of how the government helped to precipitate the crisis and how its response has only made the Wall Street-Washington nexus worse. Conservatives have sometimes unfortunately confused being pro-market with being pro-business; a conservative policy agenda for the future will have to make the hard distinction between the two.
Obamanomics by Tim Carney. Carney has been exposing crony capitalism for a very long time, but his work on the Obama Administration is incredibly important and serves for important lessons for the GOP. Again, he emphasizes the distinction between pro-market and pro-business, and how Washington politicians either don't know or don't care. While Obamanomics focuses on the current White House's cozy relationship with big business, its lessons are equally applicable to the Republican Party.
Coming Apart: The State of White America by Charles Murray. Murray is a titan of the conservative intelligentsia, and Coming Apart - released in January - is a revealing account of the problems that face the GOP's current demographic base and the inherent disconnect between elites and average Americans that afflicts and distorts beltway thinking.
The Age of Abundance by Brink Lindsey. His new book Human Capitalism is important read as well - perhaps after you finish The Age of Abundance - but Lindsey's 2009 work provides a good account of the current state of American policy and the trends that will shape the problems that America faces in the future.
Overall, many, many fewer Americans turned out to vote. 2008 was a high-water mark for turnout in what may have been an anomaly. President Obama received seven million fewer votes nationwide, but it wasn't a case of the President losing voters to his Republican challenger - Mitt Romney won more than one million fewer votes than John McCain as well.
Some of the much-vaunted demographic advantages that President Obama held in 2008 shrunk. He lost ground to Mitt Romney among traditionally democratic groups. Youth voters swung back towards Romney. (Though Obama still held a historically-large advantage there.) Catholics were at a historic high for Democrats in 2008, but they voted for Obama with roughly the same split they voted for Al Gore this time around. Jewish voters went more heavily for Mitt Romney.
To an extent, we have to recognize a truth: President Obama is a candidate who has uniquely transcendent appeal. He's a very good orator who resonates emotionally with his base. Conservatives settled on Mitt Romney, a man that many had to hold their nose to vote for.
Obama’s support increased with Hispanic voters: he won 69 percent of the demographic, compared with 29 percent for Romney. That 40-point deficit is slightly higher than his 36-point victory among Hispanic voters in 2008.
The mainstream media thinks this means Republicans will have no choice but to adopt a positive agenda on immigration reform. Whether or not this means a George W. Bush style plan that allows for some forgiveness for illegal immigrants is up in the air. Chuck Todd speculated on MSNBC this morning that some form of "immigration reform" would pass in the Senate with 80-90 votes.
It's too early for consternation. As Ramesh Ponnuru pointed out, this wasn't about the kind of candidate Republicans ran. Moderate Republicans like Scott Brown lost and solid conservatives like Allen West lost. Beware the finger-pointing, especially this early.
Well if this is a mandate for anything it's definitely a mandate for higher taxes on the rich.— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) November 7, 2012
President Barack Obama won re-election tonight without winning as many electoral votes as he did the last time around after facing a serious threat because of his first term agenda. Now beware of people in the mainstream media proclaiming that there's some kind of "mandate" for Barack Obama to run with.
As Ron Fournier points out at the National Journal, President Obama completely sold out the hopes, dreams and aspirations that his 2008 campaign was run on. He ran on small, petty, divisive issues and must now attempt to mend fences with a Republican Party that does control some of the levers of power in Washington.
Mandates are rarely won on election night. They are earned after Inauguration Day by leaders who spend their political capital wisely, taking advantage of events without overreaching. Obama is capable—as evidenced by his first-term success with health care reform. But mandate-building requires humility, a trait not easily associated with him.
“The mandate is a myth,” said John Altman, associate professor of political science at York College of Pennsylvania. “But even if there was such a thing as a mandate, this clearly isn’t an election that would produce one.”
He pointed to Obama’s small margin of victory and the fact that U.S. voters are divided deeply by race, gender, spirituality, and party affiliation. You can’t claim to be carrying out the will of the people when the populous has little shared will.
There are enormous issues that must be dealt with in Washington. We can only hope that President Obama learned some lessons in his first term the hard way, refines his theory of congressional negotiation, and is serious about tackling some of the entitlement problems faced by America.
BREAKING: Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Gang of Eight Immigration Reform Bill | Daniel Doherty