Archive | Me The People

Here We Go Again…

Niall Ferguson at The Daily Beast yesterday:

It’s a paradox. The economy is in the doldrums. Yet the incumbent is ahead in the polls. According to a huge body of research by political scientists, this is not supposed to happen. On the other side of the Atlantic, it hardly ever does. But in America today, the law of political gravity has been suspended…One thing’s for sure. Though Bill Clinton waxed lyrical last week about his party’s job-creation record, this time it really isn’t the economy, stupid.

John Sides here at The Monkey Cage three weeks ago:

[W]ithout any dramatic trend the resulting balance of economic indicators is favorable for Obama, though not strongly so.  This is, in part, why the forecasting model that Lynn Vavreck, Seth Hill, and I helped develop for Wonkblog, suggested Obama would win.  Lynn and I reach the same conclusion with a elaborated forecasting exercise in “The Hand You’re Dealt.”  This is, in part, why forecasts that build in economic indicators—as at 538 and Votamatic—suggest the same.  And yet people still think Obama should be losing because of the economy.  That is simply not the case.  The state of the economy does not guarantee him victory but neither does it presage defeat.

More of John’s data analysis can be found here. More of Ferguson’s thoughts about whether voters tell the truth to pollsters, vote prospectively in US elections, or care about issues other than the economy can be found here. Now if only we had some actual research on any of those other topics that he could reference….

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Me, the People: Clive Crook, Here We Go Again Edition

Live in The Atlantic, with a few minor amendments.

Democrats don’t want to hear this, but I am doubtful about further stimulus spending and rightly demanding answers on the long-term fiscal problem. I don’t believe that higher taxes on “millionaires and billionaires” are enough to solve that problem. True, this is no longer Obama’s position—but I saw how he had to be forced off it. I give the GOP some credit for that.

For context, see here. In fairness to Crook though, the “Me, the People” stupid pundit trick is considerably less annoying than the Me, the American Political System one.

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Me The People: David Brooks Edition

Original here

In times like these, deficit spending to pump up the economy doesn’t make me feel more confident; it makes me feel more insecure because I see a political system out of control. Deficit spending wouldn’t induce me to hire and expand if I were magically transformed into a small businessman. It would scare me because I conclude the growth isn’t real and they know big tax increases are on the horizon. It wouldn’t make me feel better if I were miraculously elected as a political leader. Lacking faith that I can wisely cut the debt in some magically virtuous future, I would see my nation careening to fiscal ruin.

Is it so hard to go to public opinion poll data to try to figure out what people think, or to acknowledge that you don’t know what they think when, like, your only source of information is what you think about the topic? No – it isn’t so hard. This is a particularly annoying pundit trick.

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“Me, The People”: Repeat Offender Edition

Clive Crook does it again (see here for context). All good, as far as I am concerned – it finally allows me to make the pun in the title (which I really should have thought of the first time around). Anyway, Crook, with some minor editorial improvements, below:

Remarkable as it may be—and welcome, too, as I believe—it is nonetheless a tainted victory. Brown won in Massachusetts for a reason. The Democrats had failed to make their case for this reform to me. They pressed the case for some sort of reform, but that was easy: I was already there. What I dislike is this particular bill, and the Democrats, intent on arguing among themselves, barely even tried to change my mind.

I struggle to understand how extending health insurance to 32 million Americans, at a cost of a trillion dollars over ten years, can be a deficit-reducing measure. If cuts in Medicare will pay for half of that outlay, as the plan intends, I struggle to see how the quality of Medicare’s services can be maintained—let alone improved, as Pelosi said again in her speech on Sunday. The CBO notwithstanding, I am right not to believe these claims.

Whether you agree with that or not, the law the Democrats just passed is unpopular with me. It is a far-reaching, transformative measure that in the end will affect almost everyone; it is opposed by me most of the time; and it is now law. I would never have believed this possible in the United States.

See Josh’s post below for some actual analysis that looks toward data (I wonder in particular where Crook gets his ‘most of the country’ claim given the narrowness of the divide in opinion polls). I should acknowledge that Crook does suggest that public opinion may change on this (and also criticizes both sides of the aisle and favors generic HCR more than my ‘revised’ quote would suggest) – but he really seems to have a quite exaggerated understanding of the depth and coherence of public opposition. Nor do I want to keep on picking on Crook in particular; I imagine that this will be only one in a series of posts hammering away at this rhetorical-shtick-masquerading-as-an-argument given its ubiquity among political commentators. Readers are invited to forward me more as they see them (nb: I am looking for more than shallow ‘the country demands’ type applause-lines – what I really want to see evidence of is pundits looking into their hearts, discerning the shape of American public opinion there, and drawing the necessary conclusions).

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Read My Lips: Voters Do Not Care About the Legislative Process of Healthcare Reform

Clive Crook resurrects the canard.

In the last big push to get reform through, using whatever deals, scams, ruses and parliamentary evasions fall to hand, the public and their concerns are pushed ever more to the periphery of Washington’s vision. … Recovering voters’ respect for the outcome, even assuming the outcome is good, looks an ever more distant prospect. … Democrats facing tight elections are right to worry that “in due course” might be a long time. It is hard to see how the public will forget this mess between now and November. … passing an unpopular bill by questionable means is unlikely to prove an electoral tonic.

John, of course, has been all over this. However, he merely has ‘data’ and ‘analysis’ on his side. Clive Crook, in contrast, has the punditocracy’s trump card – confidently-worded assertions. Less sarcastically (OK – only slightly less sarcastically), when I become world dictator, my first act will be to decree that pundits who promiscuously write about how “the public” thinks this or that, without any reference to data on what the ‘public’ (a dubious concept in most of these debates anyway) actually thinks will be required, under pain of death, to rewrite their columns so as to substitute the word “I” and related personal pronouns/possessive adjectives for the word “the public” throughout. In the interim, readers are invited to make the necessary substitutions themselves. As illustrated by the following

In the last big push to get reform through, using whatever deals, scams, ruses and parliamentary evasions fall to hand, me and my concerns are pushed ever more to the periphery of Washington’s vision. … My respect for the outcome, even assuming the outcome is good, looks an ever more distant prospect. … Democrats facing tight elections are right to worry that “in due course” might be a long time. It is hard to see how I will forget this mess between now and November. … passing an unpopular bill by questionable means is unlikely to win my vote.

which happily has the dual advantage of being punchier and more accurate than the original.

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