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Tuesday, April 20, 2010
What Color Is Your Petard?

You may recall that during the 2004 presidential campaign there was a lot of discussion about the economy. Despite the fact that nearly all economic indicators were trending positive, the Democrats--lead by John Kerry--continuously harped on the theme that it was a "jobless recovery" and that as president George W. Bush had lost more jobs than Herbert Hoover. And it was indeed true that the job market markedly lagged the rest of the economy in rebounding from the 2000-01 recession. Eventually, jobs did come back, enough so that by the time the 2004 election actually took place, the Democrats could no longer get much play out of the issue. (In June 2003, the unemployment rate topped out at 6.3%, by November of 2004, it was at 5.4%)

So it's somewhat ironic--in a delicious way--to think that Democrats may be faced to make the opposite side of the jobless recovery argument this time around. By most indications, it's becoming increasingly clear that some sort of economic recovery is afoot. The strength and eventual staying power of said recovery is open to debate, but even the dismalist of the dismal scientists have to admit it's getting better.

But this recovery also appears to be one wherein job creation doesn't really begin until significantly after the recovery is well underway. In fact this time around, it may take even longer to make a dent in the unemployment numbers. While companies are beginning to see the light, most are still playing it safe and waiting to add to their payrolls. And while some industries can bring workers back fairly quickly once they decide to begin hiring, in many others the cycle time from a firm's leaders giving the thumbs up to adding headcount to a new worker actually starting a job can be lengthy.

From an anecdotal perspective, the company that I toil for is seeing a nice bounce back in sales, especially in Asia and the United States. It's actually come sooner than we had expected and the outlook for the rest of the year is far more positive than most would have imagined just six months ago. However, there's no rush to bring bodies back in to the organization just yet. The stresses on our the leaner and meaner work force are apparent, but the hiring spigot is going to be opened slowly and with careful calibration. I would imagine this is also what is happening in other companies throughout America.

So even if the economic recovery continues, it's probably not going to happen soon or be strong enough to really turn the tables before November when it comes to jobs. And when it comes to jobs, perception is reality. Even if the unemployment rate drops significantly between now and November, if people don't feel like there's a boom in jobs, they won't believe it. If their unemployed friends still can't jobs and if their relatives who just graduated from college can't find meaningful work, they will have a negative impression of the state of the economy. It's going to be fun to watch Democrats tout GDP numbers as proof of the strong economic recovery, while they dismissed the exact same figures as meaningless in the lives of "real" people back in 2004.

But what's even more likely is that the economy will not be the X factor in the 2010 elections. While economic health is often what tips the political balance for or against the party in power, it doesn't always hold trump. In November of 1994, the economy was booming and unemployment was at 5.6%. That didn't prevent the Gingrich Revolution. In November 2006, the economy was in great shape with unemployment at 4.5%, but voter frustration with the war in Iraq and the perceived Culture of Corruption in Congress didn't save the GOP. 2010 seem likely to be another year where it isn't the economy, stupid.

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Friday, April 09, 2010
She's Still Standing

Still some buzz about town following Wednesday's Republican rally at the Minneapolis Convention Center. More than ten thousand folks apparently turned out to see Sarah Palin join a host of local GOP leaders including Governor Pawlenty, Congressman Kline, and Congressman Paulson. But the real co-star of the event--if anyone can ever really share top billing with Palin--was Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. The sight of Bachmann on stage with Palin during the rally and afterward on Fox's Sean Hannity was just the latest example of the ascendancy of her star on the conservative political scene. She has become a nationally known figure and has attracted a following far outside the bounds of Minnesota's Sixth Congressional District. She's one of the leading voices of the conservative effort to push back against President Obama's initiatives and is regularly featured on national media outlets.

It's interesting (and amusing) to think about all the energy and effort put forth in recent years by her opponents to try to stop her rise and realize how amazingly futile it's all been. I can't think of another Minnesota politician who's been as oft pilloried by local media, be it the Star Tribune, Pioneer Press, City Pages, MPR, TPT, local television and radio stations (just yesterday I heard a host on one of the sports talks stations--the "new" one--going off on how often Bachmann lied and distorted facts). Local left-wing web sites and blogs have made her their bęte noir. The level of invective and outright hatred directed against her has been amazing. One particular blog called "Dump Bachmann" started up in 2004--two years BEFORE she was elected to Congress--and has done nothing but launch unrelenting attacks on everything about her ever since. How's that working out for you guys? Rarely in the course of human events has so much time been invested for so minimal a result.

Seriously. These people have spent a good part of their last six years of their lives stalking Bachmann's every move and deconstructing her every utterance and what have they got to show for it? Nothing! Oh, I'm sure if you asked them they would detail all the ways they've "exposed" her to the world and "unmasked" her real motives and "evil" intentions. But what has the result been? She was elected to the House in 2006, reelected in 2008, and--barring significant unforeseen circumstances--she's going to be reelected in 2010.

I know the hordes of Bachmann haters out there are all excited about Tarryl Clark's chances of beating her this year, but c'mon get real. By all indications this is going to be a Republican year. And there's a good chance it could be a very big Republican year. Do you really think that a GOP candidate who won in awful years for Republicans (2006 & 2008) is going to lose in a good year? Unlikely. And while the Democrats are going to raise a bunch of money both locally and nationally to retire that "crazy" Michele Bachmann, that campaign cash is going to probably be matched or even exceeded by what Bachmann will be able to pull in given her national prominence. And don't forget Bachmann's track record when it comes to winning elections both for the state legislature and Congress. She's pretty much had everything--including the kitchen sink--thrown at during those campaigns and has always emerged victorious.

It almost seems as if the old Nietzsche maxim "What does not destroy me, makes me stronger" applies in spades when it comes to Michele Bachmann's political career. Her enemies have not only epically failed in their efforts to destroy her, these efforts actually seem to have helped propel her forward.

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Monday, March 22, 2010
You Ain't Seen Nothin' yet

So it has come to pass. I spend yesterday trying my best to avoid hearing, seeing, or reading anything about the imminent passage of the health care reform bill. And between Mass in the morning, a walk to the park in the afternoon to savor the lovely spring weather, and a hockey game at night, I was for the most part successful. Oh, I knew what was happening all right. There really wasn't any way to completely escape it. But I was able to put it out of sight and mind as much as possible. No reason to ruin a perfectly good Sunday.

My first reaction upon waking this morning with the dawning realization of what had transpired last night was to launch into a "Planet of the Apes" tirade:



By the way, a good spoof on what our health care future will look like would have the Taylor character discovering a MRI machine or perhaps the ruins of the Mayo Clinic jutting out of the sand.

Over the last ten years, the decline of the influence of the mainstream media has been obvious. Part of this decline has been brought about by technology, but part of it is also no doubt due to the MSM's dereliction of duty when it comes to reporting in a factual and objective manner what is really happening. This unwillingness or inability to communicate in a straightforward manner was again in evidence throughout the health care reform debate, particularly so as it reached its climax over the last week.

I can't even count how many times in recent days that I heard news stories about how the House Democrats were trying pass a health care reform bill in the face of "fierce opposition" from Republicans. This was narrative that was presented again and again, yet it was fundamentally not accurate. It wasn't House Republicans that Nancy Pelosi was bribing, threatening, and cajoling to get the bill passed, it was her fellow Democrats.

Most news reports also did not mention that poll after poll has shown that most Americans did not support this bill. A more accurate narrative might have been that Democrats were trying to pass a health care reform bill in the face of fierce opposition from the American people. Funny that wasn't the one they went with.

The media also paid scant attention to what really was going on with the critical debates about government funding for abortions, choosing instead to present it as "one side says this and one side says that and no one knows who's actually right." Or buying in to the notion that because a few nominally Catholic groups or individuals supported the bill, it was okay for Catholics to support it in spite of clear and consistent statements from Church authorities to the contrary.

The media was also complicit it pretty much blindly accepting the Obama Administration's claims about the costs and deficit impacts of the plan because they had the imprimatur of the CBO. Even today's WSJ had a front page story with a box showing how much the plan would reduce the deficit. "Where's the freakin' asterisk?," I wanted to scream when I saw that this morning.

The media's behavior in the health care reform battle is just the example of how far they've fallen. Reporters either cannot because of their own intellectual limitations or choose not because of their own ideological motivations to provide the full story. Some of it can also be explained by their attitude that most Americans are too stoopid to too apathetic to truly understand or care about how the sausage is being ground through the process. In reality, Americans did care and many did take the time to understand exactly what Congress was up to.

And that's why if Democrats think this is going to blow over in a few weeks now that the deed is done, they are sadly mistaken. I've never seen the level of anger, disbelief, and frustration with the powers that be and the processes that they used to get this bill passed that I see now. And it's not just the usual political junkies either. I know a lot of people who, except for a few weeks during a presidential election, typically aren't that interested in politics who are now paying attention. And they're pissed.

These people aren't necessarily Republicans or conservatives. While they might have some sympathy to their cause, they haven't showed up at Tea Party protests. Yet. They're what you would call your average Americans, usually more concerned with their church, their families, their jobs, their friends, and yes their fun, than what politicians in Washington, D.C. are doing. But this time is different. This time, they do care. This time, they have paid attention. And this time, they're not going to put up with attempts to return to "business as usual" in Congress and move on to the next agenda item. This time, when they say they're going to "throw the bums out" they mean it. That battle is over, the campaign has just begun.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010
King Makers

The announcement that King Banaian has thrown his hat into the ring and officially entered the race for Minnesota House District 15B has the crack marketing staff here at Fraters Libertas world headquarters scrambling to come up with ways to help his campaign. Brains are being stormed, ideas are being run up flagpoles, stories are being boarded, and, in scenes right out of "Mad Men," copious amounts of cigarettes and Scotch are being consumed by well-coiffed, nattily-attired gentlemen. Well, at least the cigarettes and Scotch part is accurate.

Those of you in the same demographic cohort as King probably remember Eugene McCarthy's primary campaign for president in 1968 and the memorable tagline that his youthful volunteers adopted Getting Clean for Gene:

In addition to its "bring the troops home now" message, the McCarthy campaign also introduced new tactics into campaigning, ranging from its reliance on a core group of ideologically-motivated funders--presaging George Soros--door-to-door canvassers brought in from out of town, and, perhaps most memorably, a tactic which its young volunteers adopted known as "Clean for Gene." Viewed most simply, it involved long haired New Left types getting haircuts, before hitting the streets of Concord and Manchester.

Operating under the premise that there's really nothing new under the sun (and because we're far too drunk, lazy, and stupid to come up with anything original), we've decided to borrow plagiarize steal emulate the repetition of similar sounds from the McCarthy slogan in a manner befitting King, his volunteers, and our time. Here are some of the possibilities currently being considered:

* Searching Bing for King

* Willing to sing for King

* Wearing bling for King

* Taking wing for King (a little abstract)

* Making a zing for King

* Having a fling for King (this one has proved very popular with focus groups so far)

We hope to have this list pared down and a finalist green-lighted before March Madness kicks off later today, because after that no one is going to be doing any real work around here anyway. We're also been throwing some ideas for TV/radio spots at the wall and the only one that's really sticking so far is also a blatant rip-off of tribute to a politician from the past:

(Begin with King's voice)

Because you need me, Stearns County. Your guilty conscience may force you to vote Democratic, but deep down inside you secretly long for a cold-hearted Republican to lower taxes, brutalize criminals, and rule you like a King. That's why I'm doing this: to protect you from yourselves. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a house district to run.

(Fade out with "Every Man A King")


UPDATE: We've received a deluge of e-mails with more suggestions.

Beth from Golden Valley offers:

Banging Sting for King.

That doesn't seem particularly appropriate or germane to this topic, now does it?

T. Swift from St. Paul chimes in with:

Taking a swing for King.

Strictly in the metaphorical sense of course.

Desperate Hausfrau from Waite Park suggests:

Taking off my ring for King.

Hey now...

Finally, Atomizer from Eagan volunteers:

Drinking Coldspring for King.

Not exactly keeping with the spirit of sacrifice intended, but I guess we all have our part to play.

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Friday, November 06, 2009
A Simple Plan

(Begin with black screen and somber music in background. Scroll the following in bold white text.)

U.S. unemployment rate in January 2007 when Democrats assumed control of Congress?

4.6%

U.S. unemployment rate in October 2009?

10.2%

According to a recent CNN poll, percentage of Americans who believe the economy is the MOST important issue facing the country?

47%

Percentage who believe that health care is?

17%

The response of Democrats in Congress in the face of these numbers?

Trying to rush a health care bill through Congress that would in all likelihood make it harder for companies to create new jobs.

*****

There's your generic Republican House candidate campaign ad for 2010. Modify it as circumstances warrant and run that baby hard and heavy. Maybe do another one with the federal budget deficit data. Just be sure to get the numbers out there and keep the focus on them.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009
We Can't Afford Betty McCollum

From the Heritage Foundation, staggering facts about the size of the federal government's budget deficit. Excerpts:
  • This year, Washington will spend $30,958 per household, tax $17,576 per household, and borrow $13,392 per household. The federal government will increase spending 22 percent this year to a peacetime-record 26 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP).
  • The 2009 budget deficit will be larger than all budget deficits from 2002 through 2007 combined. More than 43 cents of every dollar Washington spends in 2009 will have been borrowed.
  • President Obama's budget includes $1.4 trillion in tax increases, all of which would go toward new spending rather than deficit reduction.
  • The White House projects $10.6 trillion in new deficits between 2009 and 2019--nearly $80,000 per household in new borrowing.
  • The public national debt--$5.8 trillion as of 2008--is projected to double by 2012 and nearly triple by 2019. Thus, America would accumulate more government debt under President Obama than under every President in American history from George Washington to George W. Bush combined.
  • The coming tsunami of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid costs are projected to push the federal public debt to 320 percent of GDP by 2050 and over 750 percent by 2083.
Rather demoralizing proof that we as a nation are tapped out. We've already spent the nation's wealth far beyond our ability to pay it back during this generation, and increasing that rate of spending at every opportunity.

Assumptions that we will EVER be able to pay it back rest upon the belief that far more responsible government leaders will be in charge decades hence and they will curtail their spending appetites enough to bail out the bankrupt US Treasury. In addition, the voters in the future will be gracious enough to slash their standards of living far beneath what we have now, in order to funnel the vast majority of their incomes to the government in order to pay down our debt while receiving fewer services.

In other words, we're counting on the entire American voting public being replaced by fiscally conservative alien body snatchers in the next 30 - 50 years. Yes, that's a long shot, but moderately more likely than Obama's public health care option being budget neutral. As such, let me be the first to say, Zoltan Xtropcazard of Remulus 12 in 2058.

Until that glorious day, we're stuck with the politicians we elected and who created the fiscal apocalypse cited above. People like Rep. Betty McCollum. She's been in Congress for 8 years, never met a spending increase she didn't like, and certainly should be aware of the kinds of financial information from OMB posted above. And how does she react?

From her speech last week at a Democrat party rally for Obama care:

There are opponents of health care reform. There are people who say that the richest most powerful country on Earth cannot afford to provide health care for all of its citizens. There are opponents who want to protect profits before they protect the right of people to access health care in this country.

Richest country on Earth? Tens of trillions of dollars in debt with no means to pay it off and we're still considered rich? Maybe she means rich in sense of the 7th definition of the word in Merriam-Webster: laughable.

No, I believe McCollum means rich as in we have all the money we need to add yet another trillion dollar spending commitment. This extends a habit I noted back in March when reviewing her legislative spending priorities like:

Can our faith, our values, and our tax dollars be combined into an American "tzedakah" to increase our commitment to feeding the hunger, healing the sick, educating all girls and boys, empowering the ignored and alienated, and inspiring hope in every corner of our planet? I say yes.

She combines the beliefs that she is called on to save the world and that the well of US tax dollars available to pay for her plans is inexhaustible.

Another example, from a speech she gave just one month ago, when the full extent of our fiscal catastrophe was already well known. In the context of already budgeting $7.8 billion in 2010 for her global health initiative, she has this to say about our financial contribution to health care in other countries:

So what are we - the richest nation and other donor nations - doing to significantly reducing child and maternal mortality while investing in building sustainable health systems? Unfortunately, not enough in my opinion.

The government is broke, the politicians have got the citizens at each others' throats over taking on crushing new debt for even more domestic spending, and McCollum is lobbying for untold billions more to save the world, all because we're the "richest nation."

Maybe Betty McCollum is a relic from a different time, when we were the richest nation and had money to throw at any brainstorm any Congress person wanted to pursue. But those days are over, McCollum and her fellow relics sure took care of that.

We cannot afford Betty McCollum in Congress any longer.

That is my proposal for Congressional campaign ads in 2010. It would work against any big spending incumbent (of either party). Present the facts about the deficit, as provided by OMB or CBO. Then get some excerpts/sound clips of the incumbent sketching out their Utopian dreams with your dollars. Something like this:

"It is my belief that the United States has the ability, the resources, and the moral obligation to work in partnership with other wealthy nations, and make the investments to reduce global poverty."

Or this:

The President also recognizes that as the world's superpower we also need to be a "super partner" and I will work to support his agenda of expanded engagement and his efforts to increase the foreign assistance budget.

Let us start with investments in successful birth outcomes for moms and newborns and keep going by focusing on nutrition, water and sanitation, education, and delayed childbearing.

As girls transition to adulthood there must be an economic foundation for them to use their education, earn income, and stay healthy and productive -- an adult continuum.

To unleash the full potential and power women have to contribute greater efforts are needed to promote violence free homes, to expand access to reproductive healthcare, and to increase participation in political decision making.


Whether or not the tape is slowed down to distort it into monster-like intonation is optional.

Then end the spot with something like "Out of money, out of control. This country cannot afford [Congressperson X] any longer." Followed by 5 seconds of black screen and silence.

Then, when the challenger wins on election day, pray they are one of those fiscally responsible pod people I mentioned earlier.

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