Written by Tad DeHaven, a budget analyst at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
Back in August, Cato adjunct scholar Veronique de Rugy expressed concern about Republican campaign rhetoric on Medicare. As Republicans tell it, they want to “protect” and “strengthen” Medicare, whereas President Obama wants to “cut” and “weaken” it. Veronique thinks that the GOP’s “Mediscare” campaign could end up backfiring by making it harder to reform Medicare if Republicans succeed in taking control of Washington.
What I find irritating is that for all the standard platitudes from Republicans about getting federal spending under control, they’re simultaneously attacking Democrats for allegedly wanting to cut the budget’s big-ticket items like Medicare and military spending. Democrats might deserve it for decades of trying to scare the pants off of seniors, but the GOP’s adoption of their tactics is evidence in support of the view that the parties merely represent two sides of the same coin. (Don’t forget the last big expansion of entitlements came from the Republican-engineered addition of a prescription drug benefit to Medicare in 2004.)
That brings me to the Pennsylvania race for U.S. Senate , where Republican challenger Tom Smith is trying to unseat Democrat Bob Casey. Smith is apparently in striking distance after months of running television ads attacking Casey. However, one particular ad being run by the Smith campaign is a good example of how low Republicans have sunk when it comes to Mediscaring:
Written by K. William Watson, a trade policy analyst for the Herbert A. Stiefel Center for Trade Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. It is cross-posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
With all the China bashing we’re hearing on the campaign trail and the arguments from both candidates that free trade agreements are good only because they increase manufacturing exports, one might reasonably deduce that free trade advocacy is a thing of the past and a losing position with the American people. If this is true, many in Congress haven’t gotten the memo. The House and Senate are home to many free traders. You can see for yourself by visiting Cato’s interactive trade votes database, Free Trade, Free Markets: Rating the Congress.
The Cato Institute has been keeping track of how Congress votes on trade issues since 1997. At the website you can see reports summarizing the votes for each congressional term. There is no report for last term (2009–2010) because Congress was too busy dealing with healthcare and Keynesian stimulus to take on trade issues, but the last two years have seen votes on free trade agreements, Chinese currency and subsidies, export finance, and sugar price controls. We’ll have a report after the current term ends on what all these votes mean for the freedom of Americans to interact with foreigners and on what to expect in the next two years.
As President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney finish preparations for this evening’s debate, which will focus on foreign policy, it’s clear to both campaigns that the election is on the line and there is no room for error.
The momentum has stayed with Romney over the last several days, despite a stronger showing from Obama in the most recent debate. Post-debate polling indicated, however, that Romney sounded better than Obama on economic issues, the issue on the minds of most voters as they head to the polls.
Weeks ago, it looked like Obama was crusing to re-election. Just two weeks ago, he was easily leading Romney in the Electoral College, 332-206 (this is roughly where it has stayed since we started tracking in August). But that lead began to tighten as polls started to reflect the results of the first debate, which Romney handily won. Colorado and Florida drifted over into Romney’s camp, narrowing the Electoral College to 294-244.
By last week, Romney had taken a slight lead in Virginia, bringing the Electoral College to 281-257. As noted at the time, all that was standing in the way of a win for Romney, other than time, was Ohio, where Obama has maintained a small lead.
While we have gotten off on another distraction thanks to Todd Akin’s comments about abortion and rape, swing state voters may wish the national focus of the election was back on the economy. According to recent jobs numbers, the unemployment rate went up in 44 states, including many that will play a factor in determining the presidential race:
The jobless rate climbed in July in nine of 10 battleground states that could play a pivotal role in the presidential election, even though employers added workers in most of them.
The unemployment rates rose in Iowa, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, according to Labor Department data released Friday. The rate also increased very slightly, in Colorado and North Carolina, and held steady in Ohio, ending 11 months of declines there, the data show.
Nevada’s 12% unemployment was highest among all 50 states. Michigan’s rate hit 9% for the first time since January, and Florida’s rate, now at 8.8%, increased for the first time in more than a year.
The state figures largely tracked the national jobless rate, which ticked up to 8.3% in July from 8.2% in June.
Separately, Gallup notes that 56% of voters in swing states say they are not better off than they were four years ago. Only 40% say they are better off. The number of voters who say they aren’t better off is up slightly from when the same question was asked back in January. Who do they blame? Twenty percent point their finger at President Barack Obama, while only 7% blame his predecessor, George W. Bush.
A Pennsylvania judge ruled Wednesday that a new Republican-supported state voter ID law could be implemented for Election Day, despite objections that it was a partisan attempt to hurt President Obama and could cost thousands of voters the right to cast ballots.
Commonwealth Judge Robert Simpson said the individuals and civil rights groups challenging the law had not met the heavy burden of proving that it so clearly violated the state constitution that it should not be implemented. He said there was still time for those without proper ID to acquire it.
“Petitioners did not establish . . . that disenfranchisement was immediate or inevitable,” Simpson wrote, adding, “I was convinced that Act 18 will be implemented by Commonwealth agencies in a nonpartisan, evenhanded manner.”
The detailed, 70-page opinion by Simpson, a veteran of the bench who is a Republican, makes it much more likely that Pennsylvania voters will now be required to show specific forms of photo ID. It is one of many new restrictive voting laws across the country — in almost all cases, sponsored by Republicans and opposed by Democrats.
Earlier this year, my state of Pennsylvania joined many other states in passing a strict new voter ID law. Proponents of such laws claim they are merely to ensure voters are who they say they are, and to prevent voter fraud. This claim has always been a bit questionable. Voter fraud has never been shown to be that widespread.
Several months ago, I wrote here about my dilemma regarding voter ID laws in general. At the time I was severely torn as I felt that both sides were making dishonest arguments. However, in the ensuing months I have been following the Pennsylvania law to some degree. While it does not affect me personally as I have multiple forms of ID, I’m well aware that the areas that will be most affected will be heavily urban, Democratic-leaning counties like Philadelphia and Allegheny (where Pittsburgh is located).
Now a report is out showing that over 750,000 people in the Commonwealth could be ineligible to vote in November. According to the report, as many as 18% of Philadelphia residents may lack valid ID. The actual numbers are likely lower because some of these voters may have non-PennDOT ID’s that qualify. But either way, there are a lot of voters who otherwise could vote that now can’t.
Despite the delegate math looking very favorably to Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich are continuing to hope that they can peel enough support away to prevent him from winning the nomination outright. And while a brokered convention may be a slight possibility, Romney’s rivals will need to improve their numbers if they hope to catch up, as Tim Carney noted last week at the Washington Examiner.
For Santorum, a lack of campaign organizaton may lead to an embarassing situtation in his home state of Pennsylvania. According to The Daily, Santorum could win the state and still not take home any delegates:
As Rick Santorum desperately tries to make a dent in Mitt Romney’s formidable delegate lead, he faces an unlikely obstacle on the primary calendar: his home state of Pennsylvania.
Yes, Santorum is currently favored — though hardly a lock — to win the popular vote in the state he represented in Congress for 16 years.
But Pennsylvania’s non-binding primary rules for distributing delegates raise the prospect that Santorum, who has said he’ll win the vast majority of the state’s delegates, could actually come away from next month’s primary empty-handed at a time when he can ill-afford it.
Which means the April 24 primary could represent yet another chance for Romney — who kicked off his Pennsylvania campaign this week by trotting out supportive Republican leaders — to finally deal Santorum a knockout blow.
Let us make fresh.
The reason why Rick Santorum would not oust Barack Obama in November, is not his faith. It is simply that he is running a ‘social message’ of uniform decency against a ‘social message’ of uniform healthcare. Plainly, Obama’s health plan, is vital: but not more pressing than the economic calamity of bailouts, frauds, money-laundering, spending and public debt. These are focal issues of the 2012 election.
Santorum is the politician everyone can super-impose themselves on. He’s no CEO like Mitt Romney, no renowned speaker like Newt Gingrich, not intellectual like Ron Paul. No, he is a regular Pennsylvania lawyer, who argued some weird World Wrestling Federation cases. Somehow he is unspectacular enough, that he could almost be your town butcher, postal deliverer or stockyard piler. You would think this is a strength. But it is not.
Eventually, while trying to keep your political pronunciations to a minimum, to correspond to the widest social base possible, you hit a tollboth going 160 mph. Santorum is earnest, he surely is: means well to families and the elderly, but he has yet to prove his salt. His record is plain: he has taken massive amounts of Washington D.C. beltway funding, voted to raise the debt ceiling, is in cahoots with the (so-called) ‘military industrial complex’ and dislikes many anomalies of our population: young pregnants, migrant-labor, jobless, gays, blacks. He has been able to entrench his campaign in an atmosphere of rustic humbleness and simpletonness.
While Rick Santorum has become the latest conservative darling, an ad has surfaced from his failed 2006 re-election campaign where the then-struggling Senator was trying to convince Pennsylvania voters that he was a moderate on economic issues — including his for increasing the minimum wage and continuing subsidies for Amtrak — to deserve to be sent back to Washington.
Andrew Kaczynski also notes that Santorum’s campaign put together a pamphlet in an attempt to appeal to moderates, which included some points that should make economic statists like him.
Many observers feel that Barack Obama has a very good shot at re-election this fall as Mitt Romney — who often performs the best out of the GOP field in head-to-head matchups against the president — has given Democrats plent of firepower in recent days. But even with today’s good jobs report, the economy should be a concern for Obama’s campaign, reports Ian Swanson at The Hill:
Recent economic reports could have the Obama White House worried.
All of the reports suggest the pace of economic growth is still slow, and that unemployment could rise, and not fall, by the end of the year.
2012 has been a good year for markets so far, despite unease over Europe. Every major index reported strong gains in January, and the rally on Wednesday continued a good year. Improving 401(k) plans might put voters in more of a mood to give Obama four more years in November.
Still, there are plenty of reasons to think the markets and jobless rate will go in a different direction later this year.
Here’s why the White House should be nervous:
• The Federal Reserve has announced it will keep interest rates low through 2014, a sign of its pessimism about the pace of the economic recovery.
• The Commerce Department found the nation’s economy grew at a 2.8 percent rate in the fourth quarter of 2011, a faster pace than the rest of the year but worse than expected. If the economic growth slows in the next quarter, it will be tough to keep unemployment down.