Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Wednesday, September 17th, 2008.

Is the Campaign Turning a Corner?

McCain-Palin, Obama-Biden

There are little indications here and there that the Obama campaign is regaining momentum while the Palin bubble is losing air.

There’s a tiny uptick for Obama in the Gallup daily tracking poll. Some other polls show that Sarah Palin’s popularity is fading fast.

The Obama campaign has released a two-minute ad explaining Obama’s economic plan. I understand this is already beginning to run in battleground states.

If you can stomach it, you can watch McCain’s new ad about the economy here. It amounts to blah blah blah American workers blah blah reform blah.

There’s a discussion at Washington Monthly about whether a two-minute ad is a good idea. Personally, I like it, and I think it is a good idea. The American people on the whole aren’t as stupid as some make them out to be. We have more than our share of idiots, yes, and the idiots make a lot of noise. But, particularly regarding domestic issues, most Americans really can come to sensible conclusions and sort shit from shinola if they are given accurate information. That last part is nearly always the catch. But not always.

For example, remember when President Bush was going all out to sell his social security privatization scheme to the public (and ain’t it good that didn’t happen)? A majority of Americans pretty much figured out by themselves — because news media weren’t helping much — that Bush’s plan was dangerous. The more they heard about it, the less they liked it.

One commenter at Washington Monthly remembered Ross Perot’s infomercials, which went on for a whole lot longer than two minutes. Think what you want of Perot (and you’re probably right), those infomercials helped a lot of Americans understand for the first time why a big federal budget deficit is bad.

This sort of calm, straightforward explanation of complex issues was a hallmark of the Franklin Roosevelt administration, and people loved FDR for it. Are Americans appreciably dumber now than they were then? We’ll see.

Meanwhile, news media are actually pointing out the McCain campaign’s, um, lies. See CNN:

Here’s the Associated Press — Yeah, I know, it’s the Associated Press, but I’m going to link to it anyway — “McCain has 2 faces: Washington in- and outsider.” So much for Mr. Straight Talker.

See also: Elitism for Elites.

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Bush Administration

Matt Yglesias makes an important point that’s not being discussed enough. Of the de-privatization of Fannie, Freddie and AIG, he says,

I’m a little surprised to learn that this is legal without some kind of legislation. It seems pretty far afield from the Fed’s traditional domain. I guess in a storm people don’t care about the niceties. … It seems to me that there this step has uncertain implications far beyond the world of high finance.

I’d like to see commentary on what the feds’ options were regarding AIG. In other words, what kind of ripple effect would we be looking at had it gone under? I honestly don’t know. Certain persons on the right blogosphere are screaming about “bailout-palooza,” and I agree that government takeover of the finance and insurance sectors is, um, way bad. I don’t like it at all. But given the circumstances, what alternatives were there?

Q. And who got us into this mess, anyway?

A. Reaganites and “small-government” conservatives who called for more and more deregulation in the name of “getting government off our backs.”

Nancy Pelosi denied that Democrats had anything to do with the financial crisis. I disagree with that. Plenty of Democrats went along with the deregulation craze without a murmur, and some actively bought into it.

But the mess originated on the Right, and it was the Right that made “regulation” a dirty word. You can argue that some Dems who probably knew better went along with deregulation because they would have lost elections otherwise. But essentially we’re looking at a mob mentality that began on the Right and spread throughout the land in all directions.

Can we, as a nation, learn anything from this? Um, wake me up when it happens. If real-world experience could have taught the “get government off our backs” crowd anything, it would have happened after the saving & loan crisis in the 1980s.

Granted, it probably was written last week, but George Will’s latest column in Newsweek is all about the beautiful natural balance of markets. “[The] point is that markets allow order to emerge without anyone imposing it. The ‘poetry of the possible’ is that things are organized without an organizer.” And there’s a lot of truth in that, especially if you’re talking about consumer goods. The overall experience of centrally planned Communist-style economies is that they are utterly dysfunctional. It is more efficient to allow supply and demand to determine how much bread to bake or how many flashlights to manufacture.

But the Right assumed that if one extreme is bad, the other extreme must be good. They insist that free market theories will somehow fix public schools and the health care crisis, even though competition, supply and demand for these services do not function the same way they function for consumer goods.

The fantasy is that “free markets” will always balance without human intervention, and problems will correct themselves. In a perfect world, that might be true. In this world, the forces of greed, hubris and just plain stupid will outweigh everything if not kept in check.

What we’re seeing now is how “natural balance” really works. Years of moving in one extreme direction — reckless deregulation and privatization — have created a crisis, causing the government to swing to the opposite extreme — nationalization — to correct it

Pursuing a middle way is more likely to keep one from swinging in extreme directions. This is essentially what us barking moonbat loony liberals and crackpot progressives have been saying for years, while the sensible and adult conservatives have been pushing us to extremes.

The other worrisome matter is that the executive branch is acting without even pretending to consult Congress. Like Matt, I question whether this is constitutional. It shows us that the Bush Administration, incompetent as it is, has done a heckofa job dismantling the Constitution and the checks and balances of the federal government.

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Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.

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