Presidential Leadership is a Myth

Ezra Klein writes in Wonkbook today about why gun control measures with mass support (90% of Americans support background checks) can’t pass through Congress:

If public opinion remains this uninformed despite overwhelming media coverage of the issue, the president’s aggressive use of the bully pulpit, and the focusing power of a national tragedy, then that suggests public opinion can’t effectively be leveraged even in extremely favorable circumstances. These results don’t explain the fluke status of gun control. They explain why majority support is a reliably weak predictor of congressional action.

As Klein goes on to say, much of the Washington press still operates as if Obama has not used the bully pulpit enough. You often hear this in the form of him not showing enough  “leadership.” But this is just a flawed way of looking at how D.C. works. The President has given more than a dozen, heartfelt speeches since Newtown on gun control. He’s put in calls to Congress and sent Vice President Biden to the hill to lobby for stricter gun control measures. What else can he do? What power does the bully pulpit have when in the face of a national tragedy and an overwhelming majority demanding action, the President can give speech after speech with nothing to show for it? The answer is none. Presidential leadership is just code for blaming each party equally, when only one is to blame.


Liberals Should Use the Term “Obamacare”

President Obama signs the Affordable Care Act into law

For a while, liberals stayed away from the term, but as the public as grown more and more accustomed to it, they have changed tactics.

I’m with Kevin Drum. I’ve never really had a problem with the term. I’ve never really seen what the problem is.  And I somewhat agree with Drum when he writes “if ACA eventually becomes popular, then Obamacare will be a positive term. If it fails, then it will fade away. It’s that simple.”

I don’t think it’d fade away if the law fails. Conservatives will forever use it to remind the public that the Democrats tried and failed to reform health care. But I think there’s a better reason for liberals to use the term “Obamacare.” If (and when, in my opinion) the law succeeds and popularity for it soars, Obama and the Democrats deserve credit it.

And Democrats will receive a great share of that credit, but Republicans are not going to just let the Dems bask in the glory of the law without trying to gain some of that credit themselves. They may claim that the success of the law is because of the state-run exchanges, not the federal government. They may claim it’s a result of governors actually accepting the new Medicaid expansion. No matter what though, they are going to try to spin it more in their favor, no matter how hard that may be.

And under that scenario, “Obamacare” would certainly disappear from the conservative lexicon. But it shouldn’t disappear from the public’s lexicon. After all, conservatives have used the word to attack Obama for the past 3+ years. Why should it disappear right when the law becomes successful?

In all likelihood, it wouldn’t. It’s likely too ingrained in the public image of the law to simply vanish just because it’s no longer a conservative talking point. But Democrats have proven inept at messaging the law and it’s not impossible for that to happen.

But Democrats and Obama deserve credit for the law if it succeeds. They cannot allow Republican messaging to diminish the fact that the Democrat plan worked. So how do we prevent that from happening? By calling it “Obamacare” now. Make sure the name is even more embedded in the public discourse. Make sure Democrats are used to using the term. Support the law and build a positive message around the term. And don’t back away from it if (and when) it succeeds. That’s how you ensure that Obama and Democrats get credit.

It starts by accepting the term now and I’m glad to see Democrats (finally) doing that. (Image Via)

Glen Hubbard: Deliberately Misleading Readers

Romney economic advisor Glen Hubbard penned an op-ed today in the Wall Street Journal that is rather infuriating. Let’s look at Hubbard’s first assertion on policy uncertainty:

In response to the recession, the Obama administration chose to emphasize costly, short-term fixes—ineffective stimulus programs, myriad housing programs that went nowhere, and a rush to invest in “green” companies.

As a consequence, uncertainty over policy—particularly over tax and regulatory policy—slowed the recovery and limited job creation. One recent study by Scott Baker and Nicholas Bloom of Stanford University and Steven Davis of the University of Chicago found that this uncertainty reduced GDP by 1.4% in 2011 alone, and that returning to pre-crisis levels of uncertainty would add about 2.3 million jobs in just 18 months.

To the study we go! Here’s the graph of economic policy uncertainty:

Uncertainty rose a bit during the stimulus debate, though that also coincided with the crisis as a whole and TARP occurred right as Lehman Brothers collapsed. It’s certainly not fair to say that those policies did not cause any uncertainty – any policy change is going to make things more uncertain. But look what is responsible for “this uncertainty [that] reduced GDP by 1.4% in 2011 alone.” It’s the debt ceiling dispute! And who was responsible for it? The Republicans! They held the economy hostage for months. That 1.4 percent reduction is exactly what Obama tried to avoid by repeatedly calling for a clean increase of the debt ceiling. Yet, Hubbard is trying to lay the blame on the President! (And by the way, can we stop with this “ineffective stimulus” idea already? It wasn’t.) Continue reading “Glen Hubbard: Deliberately Misleading Readers”