Welcome to this week's edition of The Daily Banter Mail Bag!! Today, Bob, Ben and Chez answer reader's questions on Obama's chances of re-election during bad economic times, the recall fiasco in Wisconsin, and whether we'd vote for a third party candidate.
I'm really starting to panic now. I know the economy isn't in free fall, but every little bit of bad news about jobs etc is another nail in the coffin for Obama's Presidency. How does Obama beat Romney under these conditions? It's never been done before with unemployment numbers like this.
Bob: Don't panic! There was one month of lower-than-expected job creation. Still, 69,000 jobs were created and unemployment only went up by one-tenth of one percent. Last August, the economy only created 52,000 jobs and we're all still here. Meanwhile, there's this from my column this week: GDP is growing steadily. Jobs are being added every month. Unemployment is slowly declining (with a few blips along the trendline). The deficit is shrinking. Middle and working class taxes are lower. Inflation is nearly an entire percentage point below the average that began in the middle 1920s (long term average is 3.43%, while our current rate is 2.3% and dropping). The price of oil dropped below $90 last week and stockpiles are huge -- the highest level in 22 years. New home sales are up by 10 percent over a year ago. Moody's Analytics is calling this a "genuine rebound" in housing and mortgage rates remain tantalizingly low. Consumer debt is declining and corporate profits -- despite the president's false reputation as a profit-hating commie -- are nearly double what they were in the boom times of 1999. 9.75 percent at the end of 2011, compared with 5.7 percent in the final quarter of 1999. The Dow has doubled since the deepest, darkest days of the Great Recession and some analysts suggest that the DJIA should be around 20,000, not 13,000, given all of these positive indicators. Now, if the Obama campaign can make this pitch successfully, they can win. But it's up to Democrats everywhere to make the pitch, too.
Chez: The end isn't nigh just yet. There are still a few more jobs reports left before the election and things can certainly improve. The important thing, though, is going to be for the Democrats to get off their asses and get better about controlling the narrative. The fact is that things are improving, albeit slowly, and they'd improve much faster if we hadn't had decades of Republican and Republican-style economics to crash the whole thing in the first place and the past few years of GOP sabotage in an effort to make Obama look bad and hopefully win back the White House. President Obama is still very popular -- and Mitt Romney is anything but in most circles -- but the Democrats will have to learn to take the reins, come up with some strong talking points, stay on message and fight if they want to pull this thing out regardless of state of the economy.
Ben: I'm going to say worry - and worry a lot. I know there are some positive trends happening with the economy - it is actually growing (albeit very slowly), and jobs are being created rather than destroyed, but it isn't anything to get excited about. The Euro Zone crisis is very serious and if Greece or Spain exits, we could see another gigantic world wide recession that would put Obama's chances of re-election into serious doubt. I hope that the Democrats operate on the basis that the economy is going to get worse and find a way of pinning all the blame on the Republicans. That's the only way they are going to pull it off in a worse case scenario, but they'll need to hammer home the message with Rovian efficiency. The Democrats are pretty awful at controlling the narrative and always allow the Republicans to define the debate. It does look like Obama is going out of his way to reverse that trend, but he'll need to get down and dirty if he wants to make it stick. This year is all about going negative on the Republicans, so prepare for a nasty slug fest.
What did you guys think about Wisconsin? Walker is a douche no doubt, but he was democratically elected and I think he deserved to see out his term.
Ben: Hi Martin, I wrote a piece about this earlier this week. I argued that while having a recall was a politically dangerous and risky move, Scott Walker's affront to organized labor was so serious that it was definitely warranted. Unions have taken a horrendous beating over the past 30 years in America, with membership at its lowest in seven decades. Workers enjoy less rights in America than in any other OECD nation, and further attacks on them simply cannot be tolerated. Walker is an extremist dedicated to reversing decades of hard fought for rights, and he deserved everything he got in Wisconsin. t
Bob: I disagree about "deserved to see out his term." We were out-hustled. That, and we ran a candidate opposing him who had already lost. Democrats self-destructing once again. The real lesson here is that we need to find a way to counter-attack all of the Super PACs and wealthy financiers who are bankrolling these campaigns now that the Supreme Court further corporatized the electoral process. This is the challenge of our generation: to reverse or, at least, to mitigate the corrosive effect of unlimited money in politics. It doesn't matter whether you're a Republican or Democrat. Citizens United was a disaster of epic proportions, and we're only seeing the beginning of its cancer on our representative democracy.
Chez: I've actually always had an issue with the idea of recalling an elected official. I think it should only be done under the most extreme of circumstances. Yeah, I dislike Scott Walker immensely, but the constant push to overturn the will of the people will only end in disaster. We're so divided right now as a country that I get the feeling we're going to see more and more recall attempts and while maybe we thought Walker should go, the GOP is always going to be more likely to try to unseat somebody it doesn't like because, as we've seen, Republicans tend to think that anybody other than them in a seat of power is illegitimate, regardless of what the electorate may have chosen of its own volition. If elected officials always fear for their jobs they can't govern properly for anyone -- and constantly pushing to recall leaders we disagree with will only lead to chaos.
What do you think about a 3rd political party? The Republicans are insane, but it's not like the Democrats are significantly better. If there was a serious alternative candidate that had a legit shot, would you vote for him/her?
Chez: Eventually there may be a viable third party. There isn't right now and a vote for one of the ones currently in existence is a fucking waste. Best to keep your eye on the ball.
Bob: No. I made that mistake already in 2000 when I stupidly voted for Ralph Nader -- the biggest mistake I've every made in my political life. Why? Because it meant nothing other than to take a vote away from Al Gore who probably could have used it. Besides, third parties can't really win at the presidential level -- not with the electoral college. And you know what? Good! It's not very populist to write this, but I actually like the two party system. It maintains relative consistency in government, and our leadership is generally able to govern with majority support. Do we really want a multi-party system in which someone who was elected with a 20 percent plurality to make decisions impacting over 300 million people (and more, if you count our role on the world stage)? The best thing we can do is to put forth the effort to change the parties to our liking, and this requires going door-to-door (figuratively and literally) to convince voters that what we have to say is best for the nation. That's how we get conservadems to vote our way. That's how we elect more progressives. Taking our toys and marching off to a dinky third party is a waste of time and effort amounting to nothing.
Ben: Generally speaking, I think a serious third political party in America would be a good thing. If you look at the big picture, there is little substantive difference between the Republicans and the Democrats - both parties have been corrupted by corporate interests, and actual policy is virtually identical (the argument over tax rates comes down to a couple of percent either way, and both parties have a record of aggressive foreign policy). I'd love to see a different vision for the country not based on serving the needs of the ultra wealthy. Having said that, in today's climate the small differences between the two major parties literally means the survival of the country. The two or three percent difference in the tax code means having enough money to pay for children's education, to ensure roads are maintained and the deficit can be paid down responsibly. Democrats at least believe ideologically in the role of government, whereas the Republicans don't. When you have highly volatile financial markets, having a rational government is crucial to maintain some sort of stability - Democrats provide that and Republicans aren't interested in the slightest. For that reason, I'd ignore any third party right now and focus on keeping adults in government, however bad they might be.
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