Romney och Obama i kamp om agendan

Mathias Sundin:

Det var en seger för Obama-kampanjen att de till slut fick ut Romney på banan. Hans medverkan i alla dessa intervjuer igår handlade i huvudsak just om Bain, inte om ekonomin. Återstår att se om det var ett smart drag av Romney-kampanjen att så tydligt svara. Om diskussionen om Bain dör och återvänder till jobb och ekonomi så var det det.

Jag tycker den här sortens brottningskamp mellan kampanjerna är intressanta att följa. Det är ett konstant krig om agendan. Hela tiden är det svåra bedömningar som de tvingas göra. Ska vi fortsätta prata om det vi vill, eller ska vi gå i svaromål. Svarar vi inte, kanske det blåser över. Svarar vi kanske frågan motståndarna vill prata om blir större. Eller svarar vi inte så fortsätter motståndarnas fråga att mala och vi får i alla fall inte prata om det vi vill.

En reflektion är att varken Obama eller Romney vill tala om de frågor som är viktiga för framtiden. Obama vill få debatten att handla om Romneys tid vid rodret i Bain Capital, och därigenom måla upp en bild av motståndaren som en känslokall affärsman som exporterar amerikanska jobb till utlandet. Romney vill istället att jobb och ekonomi hamnar i fokus, men inte nödvändigtvis genom en diskussion om vad som behövs för att få fart i ekonomin och se till att USA fortsätter att vara innovativt och flexibelt — snarare vill han se att arbetslöshetsstatistik och tillväxtsiffror syns så ofta som möjligt utan att han behöver förklara hur något kan göras åt dem.

Samtidigt som jag förstår strategierna kan jag tycka att det saknas politiskt ledarskap och vilja till ansvarstagande. Ska man tolka det som att väljarna fortfarande föredrar en berättelse inriktad på identifiering med sitt parti, och deras självbild och syn på motståndaren, än på en berättelse om landets väg in i framtiden?

Andra intressanta bloggar om: politik, usa, presidentval, obama, romney

The ACA Decision

Since my grasp of U.S. constitutional law is limited, to say the least, I will refrain from offering any particular opinion on the legal reasoning. Outside of that, I mostly agree with Tyler Cowen’s post on the subject. In particular, I think one has to recognize the truth in the quote below, unfortunate as it may be.

I think that plenty of what our government does is unconstitutional; just remember back to when an amendment was considered necessary for “The War against Alcohol”.  But I’ve also long considered health care policy a matter to be settled by the legislature not the courts.  Those are the modern rules of the game, for better or worse, and all along I have thought that trying to live outside those rules was a fool’s errand of sorts.

Andra intressanta bloggar om: politik, usa, juridik, sjukvård, aca

More On Bloomberg’s Soda Ban

Paternalism of the Bloomberg soda ban kind gets my blood boiling like few other things — perhaps because of its combination of pettiness and arrogance — and I wrote about it a little while ago. In part, the NYC mayor, has rested his arguments on studies conducted by Brian Wansink and David Just. They are not at all pleased:

On June 1 — National Donut Day — New York City’s mayor proposed a restaurant ban for any soft drink over 16-ounces. The hope is that by banning big drinks people will drink less and weigh less. He and others cited our research as the science behind the policy. Indeed, a dozen of our studies show when you randomly give people large sizes of food like popcorn and French fries, they overeat. Another of our cited studies showed that people ate 73 percent more soup when eating from a soup bowl that secretly refilled itself.

There’s a critical difference between the lab and Lexington Avenue that the mayor’s office didn’t account for: when Joe the Plumber and Bob the Banker buy soft drinks, they buy the size they want. They aren’t randomly forced to take a 44-ouncer when they really wanted a 12-ouncer. Moreover, their Coke or Pepsi doesn’t magically refill itself. If that happened, they’d overdrink. Instead, most restaurants give us a choice of a small or large drink — just as nearly every fast food outlet gives us a choice of small, medium, or large fries, and every movie theatre gives us a choice of small, medium, or large popcorn. People who want a little buy a little, and people who want a lot figure a way to get it.

Yes, we have found that when people are given larger portions, they do drink or eat substantially more. But to claim that these results imply that the ban will be effective is to ignore our larger body of work. In our experiments, subjects were given larger or smaller portions of food in a dining or party setting, where they were unlikely to notice portion size. It is exactly because participants weren’t paying attention that we got the results we did.

Not only is the ban an unjust restriction of liberty, and unvirtuous attack on low-status people. It is also highly unlikely to be effective at achieving its stated aims.

Andra intressanta bloggar om: politik, glädjedödarna, usa, new york

U.S. Employment — Still In A Hole

Tino Sanandaji:

Prior to the recession, 70.2% of working age adults were employed in either the private or public sector. By the time Obama took over this figure had declined to 67.4%. It declined further during the Obama presidency to 66.1% today, as the working age population increased by 4.2 million while net job growth has been around zero.

Prior to the recession, 58.8% of working age adults had a private sector jobs. This number declined to 55.9% in Obama’s first month in office, and declined further to 55.1% today. The U.S private sector successfully absorbed new workers throughout the post-war period. During the Obama Presidency it failed to do so, resulting in an increasing share of Americans who cannot find jobs.

There are good graphs, and a good walkthrough of the numbers, over at the original source.

In actual fact, presidents have a significantly smaller impact on the economy than is generally believed. In the long term, we’ll see the effects of structural changes, but such effects will assert themselves after the election. Politically, it’s obviously a different story. If the economy improves over the next couple of months, Obama will almost certainly win the election. With the current situation, Romney has a decent chance.

Andra intressanta bloggar om: politik, usa, presidentval, ekonomi

Bloomberg The Bully

Low status people are much more likely to be smokers than anyone else. They are also more likely to be obese. Middle class people like to be reminded that there are people further down the status ladder than themselves. They also enjoy being able to tell themselves that they care about the poor and unfortunate. Those facts create an opportunity that an entrepreneurial member of the elite, such as Michael Bloomberg, cannot resist to take advantage of.

Therefore, the New York City mayor, has banned smoking in public places (including parks), and is now setting his aims at large sodas. This lets him convincingly argue that it is in the interest of the smokers and the obese, while winning the support of lots of middle class voters who can feel that they are doing something.

To me, Mr Bloomberg is more reminiscent of the school yard bully, pummeling the low status kid, with the middle class voters acting as complicit bystanders.

Andra intressanta bloggar om: politik, usa, new york, folkhälsa, bloomberg

Give Joe Some Credit

President Obama deserves to be applauded for finally coming out in favour of gay marriage, after having officially been against it throughout his presidency. While his reasoning on the issue is unprincipled, and while it is surprising that he has finally discovered that some things are best left to the states, one cannot deny the emotional value of having the president stating that your desire to marry someone, regardless of whether your spouse-to-be is of the same sex as you, is something to celebrate and endorse.

But let’s not forget the man who actually showed leadership on the issue. It was vice president Joe Biden who forced his master’s hand, by stating his support of gay marriage on Meet the Press. For this, Mr Biden — not someone whose policy preferences I share, in general — should be given full credit.

As for the impact on the election, I suspect it will be close to zero. If anything, it might aid Mr Obama, by making his base more enthusiastic. Given the economic distress, I doubt that gay marriage is an issue that will make swing voters pick one candidate over the other.

Andra intressanta bloggar om: politik, usa, obama, joe biden, hbt

Who Do You Side With?

Followers of this blog know that I enjoy political tests, even though their main use is to make you consider issues you don’t normally think about. As a guide for how to vote, consider what they say, but don’t rely too heavily on them. I recently found a new one, I Side With, which lets you answer a smallish number of questions in order to evaluate which American presidential candidate you ought to side with.

My results:

1. Gary Johnson (R Libertarian) – 94%

2. R. Lee Wrights (Libertarian) – 87%

3. Ron Paul (R) – 84%

4. Fred Karger (R) – 80%

I’ll be the first to admit that I had never heard of R. Lee Wrights or Fred Karger. Obviously, these four are not exactly realistic contenders for the position. From what I know of him, I do like Gary Johnson, and sympathize with some of Ron Paul’s positions.

Overall, the questions posed cover too little ground to make I Side With truly interesting. Feel free to share your results in the comments!

Update: I previously mislabelled Gary Johnson as a Republican. While he used to be — indeed he started the election cycle as a Republican contender and also governed New Mexico as a Republican — he has since switched to the Libertarian party.

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Obama And The Supreme Court

As the Supreme Court of the United States has considered the arguments for and against upholding the health care law, in which President Obama has invested so much of his political prestige, we have seen a couple of rather odd statements coming from the administration.

An example from the president himself, as reported by the Wall Street Journal:

The U.S. president said it would be an “unprecedented, extraordinary step” for a majority of the nine justices to overturn a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically–elected Congress.

The president, of course, knows better than this. There is nothing unprecedented about the court considering the constitutionality of a law passed by Congress, whether by strong majority or a single vote. Indeed, it is a crucial task of the court to protect America against majoritarian tyranny, by enforcing the limits defined in the constitution.

Given that Mr Obama knows this, why would he make such a statement? I suspect we need to look no further than November, and the election that is looming on the horizon. Taking this position has two effects, at least. One: exciting the left-wing base that carried him to victory in 2008, and that has been disappointed that he has not turned more sharply to the left. Two: implying the importance of him being re-elected, so that he can alter the (conservative) majority among the justices. In this latter sense, it could actually help him if the law was overturned.

On the other hand, a substantial majority of Americans believe that the law, with its individual mandate, is indeed unconstitutional. Should it be overturned, the sensible route for Mr Obama to take, is that of flexibility, looking towards the centre to find an alternative solution. It would be difficult to patch the current law into working order, with the individual mandate gone.

My knowledge of American constitutional law is too limited to say whether the law will be struck down or not. I do hope that it is, and that — unlikely as it is — the issue of health care starts moving towards being handled by the states. The opportunity for different solutions, between which citizens can “choose” (by moving), is a great benefit of federalism — one that is too often neglected, even in America.

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