Remember those polls showing that Democrats and independents support political compromise far more than Republicans? And remember that Pew poll a couple of weeks ago showing that this was starting to change? Compared to four months ago, centrist-leaning voters were upwards of ten points more likely to think Obama should challenge the GOP more often. If this keeps up for a little while longer, the political landscape would look a lot different than it does now.

Well, my friends, the future is here. In California, Democrats and independents are fed up. According to a new LA Times poll, a full 60% agree that "I want Obama to stand up to Republicans more and fight for my priorities." If California is once again a bellwether for the nation, this is good news. Unfortunately, if California is once again a bellwether for the nation, it means the rest of the nation may soon be like California. This should give us all pause for thought.

Ezra Klein rounds up a series of quotes from 2001 showing that Republicans loved the idea of fiscal stimulus back when a fellow Republican was wrestling with a recession. But now they hate the idea:

So what happened?

Some say the explanation for all this is obvious: Republicans want the economy to fail because that is how they will defeat President Obama. After all, didn’t Sen. Mitch McConnell say, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president”? How much clearer can it be?

I don’t believe this sort of behavior is quite that cynical.

Well, I think it's exactly that cynical. But not because Republicans want the economy to fail. Self-interest probably motivates them to believe they're doing the right thing when they oppose measures that might help the economy and therefore help President Obama's reelection, but that's about it. They don't literally want the economy to tank.

But the obvious thing Ezra doesn't mention is that all of those 2001 mash notes to stimulus were based on the prospect of getting an even bigger tax cut for the wealthy than they had counted on. Republicans don't really care about stimulus one way or the other. They care about upper-income tax cuts, and back in 2001, portraying them as a stimulus measure was a handy way of getting them passed. If Obama were to offer up the same deal — big, permanent cuts in the top marginal rates — they'd be happy to become Keynesians for a day if that was the price of admission.

Cynical? Sure. But this is all pretty much common knowledge. Republicans like tax cuts for the rich, and they'll adopt whatever argument comes to hand to get them. If we're in a recession, tax cuts are a short-term stimulus measure. If the economy is doing well, tax cuts are a long-term productivity enhancement. If estate taxes are at issue, they're trying to save family farms. If it's capital gains, cuts are a vital tool for energizing our manufacturing base. Any port in a storm.

From Barack Obama, after noting that millions of the unemployed could be put back to work if Congress approves his upcoming plan to rebuild roads, bridges, and other infrastructure:

We’re going to see if we’ve got some straight shooters in Congress. We’re going to see if congressional Republicans will put country before party.

I predict that Obama will get his answer pretty quickly.

Ezra Klein recommends this LRB piece about the current phase of our economic crisis by popularizer John Lanchester. And why not? It's pretty good.1 European banks, he says, are in way worse shape than they've ever been willing to admit. This is true — and it's something that a lot of us have been puzzling over for a good many years. Our puzzlement was related to the fact that although European banks really did appear to be in bad shape, they mostly managed to sail along seemingly unscathed regardless. But Lanchester thinks the era of the brave facade is finally over, and a day of reckoning is near. Unfortunately, as always, Europe is still unwilling to fully recognize reality and do what it must to fix things properly. The best-case scenario is already out of reach:

The next scenario — the one we are on course for at the moment — is not so much the next-best as the next-least-worst. It is modelled on what happened to other parts of the world over recent decades, from Latin America to Russia to South-East Asia, as they underwent debt crises and consequent economic collapse. In all cases, the relevant economies recovered, after about a decade of hard times and widely shared economic pain. In this model, the debts are gradually paid down, the economy is slowly and miserably rebalanced, and eventually things grow back to where they were when the bubble burst. There is a general sense of baffled incomprehension in the West at the idea that this should be happening to Us, instead of to Them; it turns out that this trajectory of crisis and slow recovery is a lot more bearable when it happens to other people, ideally in far-away countries of which we know little. But that is what we look to be on course for at the moment.

Unfortunately, I think I agree with Lanchester. I'd prefer to think that we'll all come to our senses soon and do what needs to be done, but as he says, "I fear that the grip of anti-spending ideology is so strong throughout the West, and the politicians’ fear of the banks is so entrenched, that the ten-year slog looks more likely." Urk.

1And be sure to read the footnote!

What's in a Name?

From the Washington Post today:

Next up: How Kafakaesque was Kafka? Was Old Blood and Guts really bloody and gutsy? How Platonically lovely was Plato's life? Did Oedipus actually have an Oedipus complex? Was Christ a Christian? Was Buddha a Buddhist?  Did Henry Ford truly practice Fordism? Was Julius Caesar born by Caesarean section? Did Jelly Roll Morton eat jelly rolls? Was Homer really homeless? All this and more in Part 2 of this series.

This week's catblogging plan originally focused on cats and laser pointers. Unfortunately, it was too dark and none of the pictures turned out. So instead we get preprandial playtime—a fixture of our day around here. On the left, Inkblot is rolling around and looking at a big black blob. That would be Domino. On the right, Domino is now plonked on the carpet staring at someone. Guess who? This all lasted about five minutes, until one of Inkblot's alpha-cat neurons fired and Domino decided to hightail it out into the yard. But it was fun while it lasted. Dinner followed shortly after that.

Have a nice Labor Day weekend, everyone. Go Trojans!

Barack Obama has pretty much caved in to the Republican contention that budget deficits are the biggest problem our economy faces. He's pretty much caved in to the Republican contention that higher taxes are bad for the economy. And he's pretty much caved in to the Republican contention that nothing big can done to improve the unemployment picture.

So what's his next cave-in on the economy? Apparently this. I guess regulatory uncertainty is what's holding us back after all. So much for the agenda-setting power of the presidency.

The Immigration Trap

Ed Kilgore notes that Rick Perry will be spending his Labor Day weekend in South Carolina and might end up walking into a buzz saw:

It’s well known that Perry’s record and positions on immigration represent the one glaring area where he’s significantly out of step with conservative orthodoxy. He has, after all, consistently supported a guest-worker program and a path to citizenship for undocumented workers, both positions contemptuously dismissed as code for “amnesty” by many conservative activists. Worse yet, from their point of view, he signed and still defends a state version of the DREAM Act, which provides in-state tuition rates at state universities for illegal immigrants brought to this country as children.

....So it’s well worth noting that the co-inquisitor who will be sitting next to Jim DeMint (along with right-wing Princeton professor Robert George) at the Palmetto Freedom Forum event on Labor Day will be none other than [Tom] Tancredo’s successor as Congress’ preeminent anti-immigration agitator, Representative Steve King of Iowa. King, whose views on the subject are so extreme that he was denied the chairmanship of a House subcommittee on immigration despite being its senior member, can hardly be expected to pass up an opportunity to bash Perry’s record in the forum’s one-on-one questioning format.

....If Rick Perry does walk into a beatdown by King in Columbia, and doesn’t handle it well, the political consequences could be pretty serious....If the extremely powerful Jim DeMint is looking for an excuse to support someone else or simply withhold his imprimatur, watching Perry squirm while his buddy King taunts him with a hot poker could provide an excellent excuse. And even more obviously, King is a major powerbroker back home in Iowa, and is likely capable of stopping Perry’s recent momentum in the state.

My guess is that if Perry has been able to handle himself on this issue in Texas, he can probably handle himself in South Carolina. Besides, where is the hardcore anti-immigrant vote going to go? Mitt Romney? Hardly. Michele Bachmann? Maybe. She's the obvious choice, and she's made a show of talking up immigration issues lately. What's worse, on immigration Perry really will have to contend with the ghost of George Bush, another Texas governor who held moderate immigration views and ended up getting pilloried by his own party for it.

Still, I suspect that Perry will he able to pivot well enough to avoid a disaster. He'll never be the favorite of the anti-immigration crowd, but he'll probably be good enough. It'll be worth watching how he does, though.

Another day, another lousy jobs report. The Washington Post headlined it like this:

Job creation in U.S. comes to a halt in August

At the risk of being tiresome, this isn't correct. We need to add about 150,000 jobs each month merely to keep up with population growth, which means that real net job growth is negative and has been for over a year. The chart below shows real net job creation over the past three years. We should do something about this. How about a trillion dollars for infrastructure?

Perry and the Press

Last weekend, Rick Perry held a private Q&A with evangelical leaders to assure them that he was Christian enough for their taste. Fine. Political leaders meet with interest groups all the time. But there's also this:

Attendees were struck not only by the clout of those who participated, but by the amount of time Perry spent with the group. The governor and his wife mingled with the Christian leaders Friday evening and for several hours Saturday, fielding questions about their faith and his record.

It would be nice if Perry were willing to spend this much time — hell, even half this much time — giving actual interviews to actual reporters. I mean, he is running for president, after all. If he can afford this much time on an evangelical panderfest, how about sparing a few hours for the press too? What's he afraid of?