Monday, November 10, 2014

Cruising the Web

Who would have thought six years ago after the triumphalism of the 2008 victories how much Obama's presidency has hurt the Democratic party? The National Journal marvels at the change.
The numbers tell the story: In 2009, Democrats had 60 senators, when you include the two independents who caucused with them; in 2015, they will have 45. In 2009, Democrats had 256 members of the House; in 2015, they will have 192. In 2009, Democrats had 28 governors; in 2015, they will have 18. In 2009, Democrats controlled both legislative chambers in 27 states; in 2015, they will control only 11. In 2009, Democrats controlled 62 legislative chambers; in 2015, they will control only 28 (with one tie and two still undecided).

The impact of the carnage in state legislatures on Obama's watch is hard to overstate. This is where the future classes of mayors, governors, and members of Congress are bred. This is where the boundary lines are drawn for congressional and legislative districts. This is where party leaders come from. And this is where the rules are made for party primaries and election laws are set. According to Tim Storey at the National Conference of State Legislatures, what we saw on Tuesday was an almost unprecedented "Republican wave," which he said, leaves "Democrats at their lowest point in state legislatures in nearly a century."
Dan Balz at the Washington Post makes the same point.
When President Obama was elected in 2008, his victory signaled a generational change and the prospect of renewal for the Democratic Party. Instead, the opposite has occurred. Over the past six years, the party has been hollowed out.

The past two midterm elections have been cruel to Democrats, costing them control of the House and now the Senate, and producing a cumulative wipeout in the states. The 2010 and 2014 elections saw the defeat of younger politicians — some in office, others seeking it — who might have become national leaders.

As the post-Obama era nears, the Democrats’ best-known leaders in Washington are almost entirely from an older generation, from the vice presidency to most of the major leadership offices in the House and Senate. The generation-in-waiting will have to wait longer.

Presidential campaigns and open nomination contests help bring new leaders to national prominence. That appears unlikely in 2016. For all her positive attributes, former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton is a suffocating presence when it comes to intraparty presidential competition. Her command of the Democratic machinery, from fundraising to grass-roots organizing, is so extensive that almost everyone else is understandably intimidated about even testing their talents against her.
Not only has Obama hurt his party, but so has Harry Reid.
For most of the last four years, Democrat Harry Reid manipulated what was once the world’s greatest deliberative body for political purposes, not for the hard task of governing.

The House passed more than 300 bills but they mostly died from neglect in the Senate. What little legislation that made it to the floor crashed as Reid manipulated Senate rules to ban amendments and debate. When Republicans refused to bow to his tin-pot dictatorial rule, he accused them of obstructionism.

Don’t take my word for it. A news article in the New York Times, not known as a GOP mouthpiece, characterized Reid’s control of the Senate as “brutish” and “uncompromising.”

Reid aimed to protect the White House. For example, building the Keystone pipeline to carry oil from Canada to Gulf coast refineries is popular with many Democrats. Reid said no to a vote so that President Barack Obama wouldn’t have the tough choice of whether to sign a bill heavily favored by unions but fiercely opposed by environmentalists.

Reid also protected special interests. He did the bidding of trial lawyers and blocked passage of a patent reform bill with bipartisan support in Congress and backing from Obama and 500 high-tech companies.

Reid’s do-nothing scheme backfired on Democrats in Tuesday’s elections. Alaska’s Mark Begich, who appears to be losing his seat in a long vote count, couldn’t tell voters he had offered even one amendment in six years in the Senate. Mary Landrieu of energy-dependent Louisiana appears headed for defeat in a December runoff, perhaps partly because her Senate Energy Committee chairmanship wasn’t enough clout to get a vote on the Keystone pipeline.

It’s no wonder that when Republican McConnell takes over as majority leader in January, he wants to restore debate, revive the amendment process and pass bills.

As George Will notes, Hillary Clinton is far from being a new and fresh candidate.
Her husband promised “a bridge to the 21st century.” She promises a bridge back to the 1990s. Or perhaps to 1988 and the “competence” candidacy of Michael Dukakis, which at least did not radiate, as hers will, a cloying aura of entitlement.

The energy in her party — in its nominating electorate — is well to her left, as will be the center of political gravity in the smaller and more liberal Democratic Senate caucus that will gather in January....

Is Clinton the person to maintain her party’s hold on young voters? Democrats, in their misplaced confidence in their voter-mobilization magic, targeted what have been called “basement grads.” These are some of the one-third of millennials (ages 18–31) who, because of the economy’s sluggishness in the sixth year of recovery, are living with their parents. Why did Democrats think they would be helped by luring anxious and disappointed young people out of basements and into voting booths?

The last time voters awarded a party a third consecutive presidential term was 1988, when George Herbert Walker Bush’s candidacy could be construed as promising something like a third Reagan term. A Clinton candidacy make sense if, but only if, in 24 months voters will be thinking: Let’s have a third Obama term.
It's funny. We spent the day after the election talking about the election results and what they portend for 2016 in my A.P. Government classes. My students are mostly 10th graders and they're 15 or 16 years old. We were talking about the exit polls and how young people had turned out in much lower numbers this year than in 2012. The students said that the Democrats would have to nominate someone who would appeal to young people. So I asked them if they thought Hillary could. Several of them said that she could because she is a woman and young people would be excited about that. But what amazed me was that they didn't think she is old. These are kids who find someone in her 40s as old. When I told them that she was born in 1947 and would be 69 in 2016, they were dumbfounded. They just couldn't believe it and said that she looks 20 years younger. The girls in the class had to explain to the boys that her hair is dyed. They were totally fooled by that. I was dumbfounded that they thought she was young. I guess they hadn't done the arithmetic in their heads to have realized that her husband was governor throughout the 1980s and president in the 1990s so there was no way she could be in her 40s now. They weren't even alive during her husband's presidency. They have an excuse for being so clueless about her age. I just wonder how many other young people who will be able to vote in 2016 are going to see Hillary as youngish or if they are going to be as fooled as my students.

Alyssia Finley describes how teachers unions really lost this year. They spent over hundred million dollars of their members' dues lying about Republicans' records on education and their deceptive ads didn't work.
Teachers unions this election provided an object lesson in how to lie with statistics by lambasting school reformers across the country for “cutting” education spending. According to one ad, Mr. Brownback signed the “largest single cut to education in Kansas history.” Florida Gov. Rick Scott stood accused of taking a $1.3 billion sledgehammer to schools, and Mr. Snyder of slashing $1 billion from education.

Yet in Kansas, total per pupil spending has increased to $12,960 from $12,283 since Mr. Brownback was elected in 2010, despite a $412 per pupil decline in federal aid. Mr. Snyder has increased education spending by $660 per student over his four-year tenure, while Mr. Scott has increased annual state funding for schools by 20%—nearly $2 billion—over the past four years.

The teachers unions also whacked Mr. Scott for expanding private-school scholarships for low-income kids, eliminating tenure, and linking pay to performance for new teachers. “Florida’s private-school voucher programs are a risky experiment that gambles taxpayers’ money and children’s lives,” Florida Education Association vice president Joanne McCall warned in a local newspaper op-ed. “Voucher schools are largely unregulated.”

So far as we know, there have been no reports in Florida of death-by-voucher. In fact, scholarship recipients in Florida have posted academic gains equal to their public-school counterparts despite coming from more disadvantaged backgrounds. Mr. Scott’s challenger, Democrat Charlie Crist , in a previous life as the state’s Republican governor vigorously promoted vouchers; he quietly walked back his support during the campaign.
The list of their lies go on and on. And it just didn't work.

Fred Barnes marvels at the inanities of Obama's post-election press conference.
Obama is unique. No president has uttered more words, yet said less of importance, at press conferences. No president has been less specific.

No president has failed as often to seize an important moment to say something significant, or quotable. No president has filled the air during a presidential press conference with so much boilerplate, so many clich├ęs, and such a multitude of evasions. A few examples:

Asked if there was anything his administration should change as a result of his party’s losing the election, he said, “The point is it’s time for us to take care of business.”

Asked if he should have done more to build ties to congressional Republicans, he said, “I think that every day I’m asking myself, are there some things I can do better? And I am going to keep on asking that every single day.”

Asked why it’s taken nearly six years to decide the fate of the Keystone oil pipeline from Canada: “There’s an independent process. It’s moving forward.”

Asked if he’d agree to kill the medical devices tax enacted as part of Obamacare, which Republicans have noisily advocated for years: “Let’s give them time to tell me.”

Asked about being a “lame duck” with only two years left in his presidency: “The one thing I want the American people to be confident about is that every day I’m going to be filling up my time trying to figure out how can I make their lives better.”
And remember that this is the guy whose candidacy and election were sold to us totally on the basis of his rhetoric. That was sure a consumable commodity. And it's all gone now.

The Washington Examiner explains how Larry Hogan was able to use Maryland's tax data to win the governorship.
In western Maryland, people talk about moving to Pennsylvania where one can find work on the Fracking Jobs website. Or take the Washington suburbs, where businesses such as defense contractor Northrop Grumman opt to set up new headquarters in Virginia, not Maryland. Retirees go to Delaware, where there is no sales tax, or to Florida, where there is no income tax. But this was only anecdotal evidence which amounted to partisan whining as far as the media were concerned, and was no match for the barrage of “official” information put out by the O’Malley administration and spoon-fed to the press.

Here is where objective data came in that told the complete story and trumped O’Malley-Brown political spin. The IRS compiles statistics on tax filers’ addresses, which the agency’s Statistics of Income Division uses to show who is coming and going to every state and county in the nation. Maryland’s numbers were pathetic, yet they were being ignored. While more than mere numbers to residents who were losing friends and relatives to other states, the issue of tax flight was not quantified.

Change Maryland researched and reported on the data, put it in a user-friendly format and made it widely available. The bottom line was stunning. Maryland lost $1.7 billion in taxable income to other states in just three years under O’Malley and Brown. Maryland joins high-tax states in the Northeast, Midwest and California among those with the largest exodus between 2007 and 2010. Maryland saw the seventh-highest negative net migration in the nation, hardly a beacon of prosperity. Hogan’s opponent could not refute the facts.

Brown was also caught flat-footed trying to explain the tax legacy of his administration, which many believe is the main reason why Marylanders are moving out. Change Maryland listed the administration’s 40 increases in taxes, fees and tolls buried in state government documents, put them in a table and gave it to the press. The report determined that the new taxes were costing Marylanders $3.1 billion a year — on top of the levies they already were paying. Hogan reached voters in a lousy economic recovery fed up paying the government more — at the toll booth, at the cash register, on their state tax returns, when they get a birth certificate and when they renew a driver’s license.
John Lott and Bradley Smith explain how shockingly little was spent on the midterms.
Two days before the election on “Face the Nation,” CBS’s Bob Schieffer asked viewers to name one item whose costs have gone up as much over time as campaigns. That’s easy. While campaign spending soared to $3.67 billion this year from $1.6 billion in 1998, federal government spending rose 5% faster, to $3.9 trillion from $1.65 trillion.

It is logical that these expenditures have gone up in tandem. The bigger the federal government, the more is at stake, and the harder politicians and special interests fight to see who gets to control it. If the federal government were still the 2% to 3% of GDP that it was a century ago, people likely wouldn’t care as passionately about the outcome of most elections.

In the Journal of Law and Economics (2000), John Lott, one of the authors here, studied gubernatorial and state legislative campaign expenditures from 1976 to 1994. After accounting for such factors as the number of contested races, how close the elections were, and how closely divided control of the legislature was, his research showed that almost 80% of the increase in campaign spending for state offices was explained by changes in the size of state governments. States with the fastest-growing budgets saw the biggest increases in campaign expenditures.

Many who express the most outrage about campaign expenditures—liberal interest groups such as Public Citizen, or politicians such as Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi —frequently are cheerleaders for the even faster growth in government spending. If they want less spent on campaigns, then put less at stake: Make government smaller.

The Atlantic ponders the problem of "invisible unemployment."

Ed Haislmaier writing in the Tampa Tribune explains the fakery behind the Obamacare numbers.
The latest enrollment data for Medicaid and private plans show that the number of Americans with coverage increased by 8.5 million during the first half of 2014. However, 6.1 million of that number were new Medicaid enrollees, with private-market enrollment increasing by 2.4 million individuals.

In other words, 71 percent of the total coverage gain came from Obamacare expanding Medicaid to able-bodied, working-age adults.

Digging further into the private market data, we find that the number of people covered by individual-market plans increased by 6.2 million, but that the number of those with employer-group coverage declined by 3.8 million. Thus, the drop in employment-based coverage offset 61 percent of the growth in individual-market coverage, resulting in a net increase in private coverage of only about 2.4 million.

The Medicaid numbers show that enrollment growth there was almost entirely due to Obamacare expanding the program to able-bodied, working-age adults. Half the states had the Obamacare Medicaid expansion in effect during the first six months of 2014, and those states accounted for 94 percent (5.7 million) of the 6.1 million individuals added to the Medicaid rolls during the period.

In contrast, the states that did not adopt the expansion collectively added only 355,000 people to Medicaid, reflecting modest growth in the populations traditionally covered by Medicaid — poor children, low-income pregnant women and disabled adults.
If the program had been sold as a plan to vastly expand Medicaid and to move people off of their private insurance onto public insurance, do you think it would have garnered even the Democrats' votes?

Kyle Smith reviews William Voegeli's book, The Pity Party: A Mean-Spirited Diatribe Against Liberal Compassion.
Today, compassion fuels the American political bus. No one can expect to lead the country without proving that he or she feels our pain.

That is a fatuous basis for policy, notes political scholar William Voegeli in a calm and reasoned book that carries the impishly inflammatory title, “The Pity Party: A Mean-Spirited Diatribe Against Liberal Compassion.”

Compassion creates a co-dependency between the empathizers and the empathizees: Liberalism is an “alliance of experts and victims,” in the words of Harvard’s Harvey Mansfield.

To top that up to 51% of the voters, says Voegeli, liberals argue that “those who do not recognize the expertise of the experts are stupid, preferring ignorance, and those who do not recognize the victimhood of the victims are wicked, lacking compassion.”

If the empathizees ever disappeared (by, say, having their miseries extinguished) then the empathizers would lose their purpose, the soothing soul balm of caring.

That’s why, no matter how much money gets poured into poverty alleviation ($22 trillion, not including Social Security or Medicare, in the last 50 years), “You will never hear the words “Phew! We cured poverty.”

Indeed, official poverty measures simply leave out anti-poverty benefits. That’s like saying you’re carless if you were forced to accept a Chevy paid for by other taxpayers.

So the poverty rate never really changes — it’s been around 14% or so for the last half-century — even as living standards for today’s poor surpass those of yesterday’s middle class.
But results don't matter. All that matters are intentions. Proclaiming that one has good intentions trumps any discussion of the failures of policies. Voegeli is saying something that has long needed to be said.

The LA Times marvels that Joni Ernst could become the first woman elected to federal office in Iowa without having to run as a standard feminist.
Ernst has rejected the kind of feminist-centered campaign that Clinton built in 2008 when she tried to convince voters that she was the person you wanted picking up the phone at 3 a.m. in the White House to handle the world's latest crisis.

Throughout the campaign, Ernst avoided references to the glass ceiling, through which Clinton said her supporters had poked holes. And when she won, exit polls showed that she trounced Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley among men, 58% to 40%. Women, who more often lean Democratic, split their support evenly between the two candidates, 49% apiece....

Ernst has rejected the kind of feminist-centered campaign that Clinton built in 2008 when she tried to convince voters that she was the person you wanted picking up the phone at 3 a.m. in the White House to handle the world's latest crisis.

Throughout the campaign, Ernst avoided references to the glass ceiling, through which Clinton said her supporters had poked holes. And when she won, exit polls showed that she trounced Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley among men, 58% to 40%. Women, who more often lean Democratic, split their support evenly between the two candidates, 49% apiece.

This is such a weird story. It turns out that Harvard has been secretly photographing classes as part of some study on student attendance in class. Students and professors are upset about the university secretly photographing students without their permission. What I can't get over the fact that 1) the university cares about student attendance and 2) thought that the best way to figure out if students were going to class was to photograph classrooms. Why not just ask professors? Don't they trust their professors? I don't believe that I ever had professors take attendance in class and it was never part of our grade. The feeling was basically that, if students wanted to pay to go to college, it was up to them to get out of the experience what they could and not for the colleges to mandate their efforts and attendance. And what information did they think they'd get from looking at photographs of classes? It really is a kooky idea.