Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Carnival of Divided Government
Quattour et Trîcênsimus
Special Turkey of a Dollar Edition

Graphic ripped from Won Park,
with apologies to Norman Rockwell,
served up by DWSUWF

Welcome to the 34th edition of the Carnival of Divided Government- The Quattour et Trîcênsimus - Special "Thanks to Obama, Geithner, and Bernanke Our Dollar is a Turkey" Edition.

Time to be Thankful
Even as the Administration, the Fed and our Congress destroys the value of our currency and by extension, our standard of living.

DWSUWF has much to be thankful for. I am thankful for CNBC, which is the only network where you can get beyond the sound bites, the mindless partisan sniping, and actually learn what is going on with our government policies and the consequences for the economy, jobs, the dollar, our standard of living and the future of our country. Case in point - this week on CNBC we learned about the consequences of devaluing our currency by printing money to service insane debt created by wild spending...

[apologies for the formatting - I don't know why CNBC video "embeds" add all this blank space, and I can't figure out how to fix it]

... after all, since we are coordinating with central banks the world over, and since every other country of significance is also stimulating their economy devaluing their currency, we are safe in the smug assumption that there is nowhere else to go but the dollar. Our leadership arrogantly assume the dollar can continue to rest on its reputation as the reserve currency of last resort, as we continue to print more and more and more. Two problems with this plan - 1) No one has yet figured out how to print gold, copper, steel, or oil - 2) Everybody else in the world is not stupid.

So China is hoarding commodities, and India, Russia and other countries are buying gold specifically to hedge against the dollar. It would seem we are migrating toward a global gold standard whether we in the US want to participate or not. In the meantime the US continues to play Russian roulette with our currency and standard of living.

Let us again turn to Peter Schiff, who was right in 2006, was right in 2008, and who now tells us what to expect in 2010 and beyond. Three for three??

Frightening. But any investor would be foolish not to listen to what he has to say.

I am also really, really thankful that Scared Monkey posted this clip from SNL, which is quite possibly the single best bit that SNL has ever done:

Just get it over with!

My side hurts from laughing.

I am thankful that one year from now, we will be reviewing the results of the 2010 midterm elections and what they portend for the 2012 presidential campaign. As some may recall, only one year ago, Barack Obama ushered in the new permanent realignment of the American political landscape. With that election we learned that the United States was actually a center-left country. We learned that the Republican Party if not already dead was doomed to succumb to the inevitable demographic shifts in the populace and that ideas like fiscal restraint are so last century and irrelevant. Having learned all of this from the 2008 election we can only assume that the recent 2009 GOP gubernatorial victories in New Jersey and Virginia are attributable to the last spasms of a dying GOP corpse. And in that context I am thankful to Professor Jacobson's penetrating analysis of the 2009 race:
"Republican Bob McDonnell has been projected the winner of the Virginia Governor's race. Proving that even a small, unpopular, fringe party which does not appeal to moderates or independents, can win over a large, popular, mainstream party. The secret? More votes."
Finally, I am thankful that as we turn our eyes to the 2010 midterms, the prospect for and value of divided government is once again getting its due from the political chattering class. Which, thankfully, finally brings us back to the Carnival.

As explained in earlier editions, we have adopted Latin ordinal numeration to impart a patina of gravitas reflecting the historical importance of the series. In this the Carnival of Divided Government quottor et trîcênsimus (XXXIV), as in all of the CODGOV series, we select volunteers and draftees from the blogosphere and main stream media writing on the single topic of government divided between the major parties (leaving it to the reader to sort out volunteers from draftees). Consistent with this topic, the primary criteria for acceptance in the carnival is to explicitly use the words and/or concept of "divided government" in submitted posts. A criteria that, to our endless befuddlement, is ignored by many of the bloggers submitting posts, which sadly results in DWSUWF reluctantly ignoring their fine submissions.


We begin with Gene Healy, blogging in the Small Government Times and offering "Three cheers for divided government":

"The Framers tried to craft a constitution that gave politicians proper incentives to check each other. “Ambition [would] counteract ambition,” as James Madison saw it, with congressmen keeping presidents honest and vice-versa.

Things haven’t worked out as planned. Too often, party loyalty trumps constitutional fidelity, as evidenced by former House speaker Denny Hastert’s self-image as a “lieutenant” of George Bush rather than a guardian of congressional prerogatives.

But when different parties hold the legislature and the executive, the Madisonian system works better. Divided government leads to many more congressional investigations into presidential misconduct, and, as two University of Chicago scholars demonstrated recently, “the White House’s propensity to exercise military force steadily declines as members of the opposition party pick up seats in Congress.” When politicians wax sentimental about “the wisdom of the American people,” it’s usually a good idea to hold on to your wallet. If we’re so smart, who’s to blame for the clowns we elect?

But when it comes to separating the purse and the sword, we may be brighter than expected. A good chunk of us deliberately split our tickets. In 2004, two political scientists crunched the numbers, estimating that more than 20 percent of American voters were “cognitive Madisonians.” In plain English, these voters consciously tried to “divide power and balance policy.”

Hear. Hear. While DWSUWF agrees with the sentiment, we don't believe that there are 20% of us who make this decision consciously. If there were, we would not now be under full sail with One Party Rule navigating the ship of state onto the rocks of financial ruin. But if we few, the Dividists, who do vote consciously for a separation of power between the parties keep beating the Dividist drum, we may yet get there.

One problem is that too many of that 20% think like Ann Althouse, who is still rationalizing her vote for Obama, despite understanding the benefits of divided government in "How much worse does Obama have to get before Althouse decides McCain would have been better?" :
Here's my original 2008 election post-mortem — "How McCain Lost Me". Excerpt, beginning with a quote of something I'd written just before the election:
"Usually, I prefer divided government, but that doesn't mean I need to support McCain. I've seen McCain put way too much effort into pleasing Democrats and flouting his own party, and I can picture Obama standing up to the Democratic Congress and being his own man. What, really, will he owe them? McCain, by contrast, will need them. And we've seen that he wants to be loved by them. "
...Yes, yes, I know. The "clarification" is killing us, and once we're dead, there's no coming back. And Obama isn't standing up to the Democratic Congress, unless he's doing it in some really subtle way that one day I'll appreciate.
I just threw up a little bit in my mouth. She knows that divided government works to restrain the growth of spending. She know that Single Party Rule leads to abuse of power and reckless spending. Yet she still voted for Single Party Rule and continues to rationalize her decision. No matter how many times I read her rationalization, I still can't figure out why. Somebody help me. Does she make any sense at all in this post?

John Batchelor looks ahead to next year's midterms in "Scripts for 2010":
"The Republicans enjoyed Executive and Legislative majority rule rarely in the 20th century, and the results were deeply foreboding or dire, such as the 1907 Panic, or the 1929 crash, or the Iraq war. The Democrats enjoyed the same with sluggish to damning results, such as the First War, the Great Depression after the bank failures of 1933; the Second War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War. Divided government has long been the best scenario to confront the surprises of foreign policy and domestic lunacy. It reminds of the Churchill remark about democracy, the best of a bad museums of governance. Is there a good prospect for divided government for the 112th Congress in a year's time. Negative. Long shot."
Agreed. The GOP simply dug themselves too deep a hole to get out in one election, but they'll certainly make up ground in 2010. If they can pick up two or three seats in the Senate, their structural advantage in 2012 gives them a great shot to retake the Senate and restore divided government 2012, even if Obama is re-elected. Barring a "Mark Foley" or "Dan Rostenkowski" type scandal with a similar level of corruption from Democrats exposed immediately before the election, the GOP will pick up seats, but will remain a minority in both houses in 2010. It is just too hard to unseat incumbents.

One of Seven, blogging at the South Bend Seven patiently explains why "There's a reason they call it Oppostion.":
"I say viva la oposición because (1) a divided government is a friend of Liberty, and (2) it's arrogant to think, as the party in power always does, that the opposition is opposed because they're stupid or hate America or don't care, rather than actually having different opinions."
Stunning how that 48% that did not vote for Obama in 2008 refuses to just go along with the sweeping mandate of the 52% landslide majority that did.

Speaking of elections , DaveG at Race 4 2012 considers the meaning of the 2009 special election results and assesses the mood of the country as we look forward to the the next two election cycles. The mood he finds? - decidedly "Anti-Establishment":
"Tonight was a victory for many things. It was a victory for the Republican Party, a sorely needed win by a party that was left for dead just one year ago in the wake of a supposed national Democratic realignment. It was a victory for those who believe in divided government, who recognize the extremism and corruption inherent in one-party rule... But first and foremost, tonight was a victory for the anti-establishmentarian sentitment that is currently permeating the American political psyche — a sentiment which was present in full force just one year ago and that was misinterpreted then, and probably will be misinterpreted now, as an ideological mandate instead of what it really is: discontent with the decimation of the American Dream and a belief that the elites and the political establishment, regardless of party, have the blood of the Republic on their hands."
I see a "malaise" speech in our future.

FLG, blogging at Fear and Loathing in Georgetown, is stunned to find himself in agreement with a A Charles Blow column in "A First":
"FLG completely agrees with the first clause because he believes Americans have a preference for divided government. He also agrees with the second clause, but not for all the reasons Blow cites. Blow's conclusion is that the Democrats haven't enacted enough of their agenda and they are beset by obstacles that make them unpopular. FLG says the agenda is unpopular and the obstacles are in their way largely because of that unpopularity."
Not to mention just plain bad legislation and heart-stopping spending.

Steve Vaillancourt at Red Hampshire finds hopeful signs in recent Rasmussen polls as does our favorite Scared Monkey - "Republicans up 6 points in generic ballot...":
"Rasmussen also discovered that, perhaps as an indication of how badly things are going now, voters favor “divided” government. Only 30 percent think it’s good when one party controls both houses of Congress and the Presidency. 45 percent have come to believe that divided government is the answer, something I’ve long believed in. Dynamic tension prevents the mischief of big government spending and control of our lives."
Positive news, particularly about the divided government attitudes. Whether that translates into votes remains to be seen. The generic ballot is a notoriously poor indicator of House of Representative election results. People don't vote for or against generic candidates, but they do vote for incumbents 97% of the time. Perhaps focusing on dividing the government is the way to overcome incumbent inertia.

Hal at Right Thinking from the Left Coast has been a consistent divided government advocate as long or longer than DWSUWF and like DWSUWF holds that view regardless of whether it is Dems or Reps with Single Party Rule. We also find ourselves sympathetic to Hal's Heidi Klum hope in "A clean sweep in the land of lovers":
"I would not be surprised at all if Obama goes the Clinton route—remaining somewhat popular, winning re-election, but being utter death to Congressional and Gubernatorial Democratic candidates. I love divided government. I could live with Obama as President and a Republican Congress. But then again, I could also live with getting daily neckrubs from Heidi Klum. That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily going to happen."
True. But it gives us hope. At least for the divided government thing. Hope for those Heidi Klum neck rubs? - not so much.

Craig Farmer has a warning for Democrats at New Liberal - "Democrats will lose power if health care fails":
"Add to all of this the natural tendencies toward divided government, and the natural political cycles that general punish the party of the newly elected President in the next off-year election and Demcrats should get the message: Pass a good health care bill. The best one you can think of. It may be your last chance for generation. If you do a good job, you will minimize the drop off on our side in terms of turnout, and may actually convince indepedent voters to stay the course. Anything else may be a disaster. "
I've got news for Craig. Democrats will lose even more power if this disaster of a trillion dollar incomprehensible health care abomination passes without any political cover from Republicans.

The admin at "Truth Daily"appears seriously confused while gushing about the president in "Obama tells Congress 'Get a mop":"
"This man is tough. There can be no doubt about that. He commands respect. So what do you say Republicans, are you going to end this divided government, shut your pie holes and “get a mop?”
First, we do not have a divided government. The definition of divided government is when one party does not hold the executive branch and majorities in both legislative branches. So here is your daily truth - The Democrats hold the White House. The Democrats have an 80+ vote majority in the House of Representatives. The Democrats have a 60-40 filibuster proof plurality in the Senate. That is the definition of One Party Rule.

Mathematically the Republicans can obstruct nothing this President does or wants. Only Democrats in Congress can obstruct this President. The worst (or best) thing you can say about the Republicans is that they are choosing not to help President Obama overcome Democratic obstruction. The Republicans are under no obligation to provide the Democrats political cover as they pass extraordinarily bad legislation and bankrupt the country. Hope this lesson helps you add a little more truth in your daily blogging dose. You are welcome.

In my favorite post of the Carnival, maybe of the year, maybe of all-time, Allan Bevere gets religion and confesses in "I Humbly Repent of my Wayward Ways":
"Up until a couple of years ago, I was a big fan of divided government, that is, one political party in the White House and the other party in charge of Capitol Hill. But then something happened-- I caught a strange virus. I started to believe that having only one party in power might prove to be very productive for our government and, therefore, by extension the American people. So, we had six years of Republican rule in both the legislative branch and the executive branch of government. Now we currently have the Democrats in charge. In watching both parties going wild with total power in their hands, I write this post to publicly repent of my wayward ways. I have returned to the true faith of believing once again in divided government and the holy process known as gridlock."
You are forgiven my son. We welcome you back to the Dividist flock with open arms. For penance, say three "Hail Madisons" and reread Federalist #51.

Finally, a history lesson from Mary Kate Cary writing in US New and World Report with an analysis of "Why Obama Needs a Big Republican Victory in 2010":
"As conservative as Reagan was, he governed from the center because he had to work with a Democratic Congress. Similarly, within days of that "liberating" night in 1994, President Clinton met with political strategist Dick Morris. The two started to map out his policy of "triangulation," in which Clinton would be the apex of the triangle, working between and above the two parties. It turned out that Newt Gingrich and the House Republicans played more of a role in ensuring Clinton's re-election than any of the Democrats on Capitol Hill did.

Gingrich has been watching what Pelosi's been doing, and he gave some advice to the current president last week. "Obama faces a choice," he wrote. "He can attempt to run a left-wing government against the American people. Or he can govern from the center with a large majority of Americans supporting him. He can have either his left angry or the American people angry." Gingrich knows that divided government would bring Obama to the center, just as it did Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan.

Democratic control of the House, Senate, and White House hasn't been a boon to Obama. It has been a bust. His best chance for re-election in 2012 is a massive GOP takeover of the House and Senate next year. Everybody wins."
I love waxing nostalgic about divided government under Bill Clinton - Ah, the good ol' days.


Traditionally, we conclude this Carnival by including one "off-topic" submission, as a grudging acknowledgment and proxy for the many off-topic submissions received. Off-topic in this context meaning - no mentions of "divided government" or gridlock.

For this edition we offer Everett presenting a nugget of truth from Friedrich Hayek on the road to serfdom in "The Danger of Ambiguous Legislation" posted at Honest Inquiry. :
"This point is quintessentially non-partisan. The passage of ambiguous legislation leading to policy decided not by elected representatives but by bureaucrats, or left to judges, would seem to define the last 60 years no matter which party dominated politics."
And with that we conclude this edition.

Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for all of the submissions (on-topic or not).

Since this carnival is focused on the topic of Divided Government, and seeing how voters spectacularly rejected the idea in the 2008 election with no real prospect of restoring divided government before 2012, this carnival has been on a reduced publication schedule. Look for DWSUWF to pick up the pace in the new year, with the next edition of The Carnival of Divided Government quinque et trîcênsimus (XXXV)- Special Two Day Hangover Edition on or about 01-02-2010. Submit your blog article at carnival of divided government using our carnival submission form.

Divided and Balanced.™
Now that is fair.

Carnival of Divided GovernmentNOTICE: In the past, this blog has taken the time to post Technorati tags at the end of every post. We used Technorati because it provided a great service - It allowed me to easily find blogs that link to me, and to notify blogs that we have linked to them. The new Technorati no longer performs this function. At least not for this blog. I have no idea what the new Technorati is supposed to do, but it does nothing for DWSUWF. I hope to find another service that picks up what Technorati left behind. So we'll drop our Technorati sidebar widget, and leave them with this last tag:

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

District 23 - Politics, Proxies, Predictions.

UPDATED: Friday November 06, 2009
It had to be District "23". This obscure upstate New York Congressional district is getting a lot of national attention, and deservedly so. So many interesting elements - where to begin?
  • The MSM usually describes it as a conservative Republican district (reportedly no Democrat has represented the district since 1859), but OTOH we learn from the same source that the district voted 52-47 for Obama in 2008. 52% - 47% - the exact percentage of the Obama's national popular vote victory - so does that make District 23 a proxy for the national electorate?
  • There were three candidates for the house seat now there are two. The hand-picked Republican machine candidate has dropped out and endorsed the Democrat.
  • On election eve - a third party Conservative candidate is leading the Democrat by 6% points, with 18% undecided. 18% undecided on election eve? Really?? These voters have got to really hate the two choices they have left to still be undecided so late.
  • The results for this district are a referendum on the Obama administration. Or not.
There is enough pontification, broad sweeping conclusions and evolving conventional wisdom in this district to provide fodder for a dozen blog posts.

A few weeks ago, when Democrat Bill Owens took a lead in the (then) three-way race, the NY Times considered the race "pivotal". Now? - not so much:
"It is probably not wise to draw broad lessons from Tuesday’s results about what might happen in next year’s midterm Congressional elections and high-profile governor’s races."
Then, conventional wisdom was that Independent Hoffman and Republican Scozzafava split the conservative vote and opened the door for Owens. More likely, Scozzafava and Owens are so similar politically, that they split the moderate vote and opened the door for Hoffman - the only true fiscal conservative in the race.

Frankly, my libertarianish views are probably more closely aligned with Owens than they are with Hoffman - particularly on social issues. However if I lived there I would have to vote for Hoffman - it is the only way to cast a vote in opposition to the ruinous financial policies of this president. Even if I liked Owen better, he is a Democrat first and would just fall into partisan line on spending, deficits and taxes. We'll see how District 23 feels about it, but (since Nate Silver is reluctant) I can't help but weigh in with a this quick post and a prediction while the votes are being cast -

The combined 24% Scozzafava and undecided vote will - of course - be determinative. I figure it this way - If people are still saying they are undecided at this point - they really really hate the two choices they have left. So... They will either 1) Not vote, or 2) Waste their vote with a protest for Dede - or - hold their nose, flip a coin and cancel themselves out splitting between Hoffman and Owens. Lets say the Dede protest vote drops to 4%, and that leaves 20% to split. If we assume these undecided to be mostly fiscal conservative, I expect that will skew the split to Hoffman. Even if they agree with Owen's socially moderate positions, it'll be too hard for them to pull the trigger for another rubber stamp vote for the reckless and destructive fiscal policies of this president and congress. Owens needed to distance himself from Obama and Pelosi, just like McCain needed to distance himself from Bush. He didn't. Biden's last minute rally didn't help - he most likely reinforced the connection to the insane administration spending.

So I say the 20% remaining undecided splits 11% to Hoffman and 9% to Owens, and my final prediction:
Hoffman (I) 52%
Owens (D) 44%
Scozzofava (R) 4%
I'll update later, with some more thoughts as the votes are counted.

UPDATE: Friday, November 6, 2009

As pointed out by the commentariat, this update is a bit late. The reason is a plumbing catastrophe that is of no interest to the reader but is consuming a large portion of my life. Regardless, as commenter Roy notes, my prognostication skills leave something to be desired. the NY 23 final results:
Candidate Party Votes Pct.
Bill Owens Dem. 66,526 49.0%
Doug Hoffman Con. 62,308 45.9
Dede Scozzafava Rep. 6,986 5.1
As far as my predictions are concerned, I clearly let wishful thinking override my own analysis. In hindsight, it should have been obvious that the independents who were sufficiently concerned about administration spending to overlook Hoffman's positions on social issues and his weakness as a candidate would have already been in Hoffman's poll totals. So it should not have been surprising that the remaining 24% "undecided" and disaffected Scozzafava supporters broke more heavily for Owens. They simply hated Owens less than they hated Hoffman. My bad.

While the election was not predictable, the reactions are. Some on the right are calling this a victory, seemingly ignoring the more conventional definition of victory - you know - getting more votes. Some on the left are positively gleeful describing a social vs. fiscal conservative "civil war" which sound a lot like more wishful thinking. Others offer a bit more thoughtful and circumspect analysis of the win. In general, it seem moderates are satisfied with the result in NY 23. It all still begs the question - Why did Owen win? Commenter Roy has one answer:
"People voted for Owens because of the candidate, the man, and the issues he stands for."
Interesting hypothesis. It could happen I guess. Still... I expect in an election as fractured and close as this one, it is the feet on the ground that make the difference. I understand from an unnamed source that the Dems recruited, relocated and paid top dollar for the best field operatives they could find for this election.

Only battle tested vets from the 2008 Obama campaign were considered for this front line effort. Hard core, hard working, committed mercenaries willing to do the kind of grunt work on the phones and on the street that make the difference in local elections. Democratic congress critters with close 2010 elections in conservative districts would do well to recruit operatives with the 2009 Owens campaign on their resume. A few hundred of these carpetbagging political street fighters will more than cancel out dozens of carpetbagging national political drive-by pundits, politicos, and media windbags.

Other lessons that can be teased out of NY 23:
  • It is still practically impossible for a 3rd party to win an election for federal office.
  • The fusionist social conservative/fiscal conservative alliance is as necessary a condition for GOP electoral victory now as it was in Reagan's era - validating yet again Ryan Sager's thesis from his excellent 2006 book "The Elephant in the Room".
  • Anyone who thinks social conservative issues should take priority over fiscal conservative issues in the next election, are not paying attention.

The Owens victory was important, if for no other reason that it permitted Democrats as well as Republicans to claim victory on Tuesday. What it didn't do, is permit anyone to continue to beat the dead horse that the Obama election represented a transformational permanent realignment in the political landscape.

The final word on the real meaning of Tuesday's election will be spoken - not by the words of pundits or politicians, but by the actions of the blue dog Democrats. Particularly those facing re-election in previously Republican districts in 2010. Dems like the man Fox anchor Neil Cavuto called "the biggest of the blue dogs" - Pennsylvania Representative Jason Altmire. In this recent interview with Cavuto, Altmire very diplomatically explains why he probably won't support Pelosi's health care bill:

CAVUTO: "...if voters and candidates a signal that they have had it it with runaway spending, the runaway beneficiaries could be the very fiscally conservative democratic congressman... you guys were arguing for finding a substantive way to pay for healthcare reform... Now - how crucial was this election."
ALTMIRE: "I'm in the process of going through the bill talking to my constituents and trying to make a determination. To determine if moving the ball forward is the best course of action... I'm not convinced that this bill is it, whether it is substantially different enough that's going to allow me to vote for... I think the discussion on the income tax increase is misguided and misplaced as part of the health care bill. There's no question that they've increased the threshold. They've done the same on the small business aspect. It still takes a punitive approach. It's my opinion if you don't offer health care to your employees as a small business owner, it is not that you don't want to, it's because you can't. And the better approach is to help small businesses afford is not to penalize those that don't. So I do still have some concerns."
Sounds like a "no" vote to me. Let's see how he votes, and for that matter - how Owens votes on the Obamacare bill.

For if there is one thing of which we be certain, it is that predicting anything related to "23" is fraught with uncertainty.