Thursday, July 09, 2009

A short note on Barack Obama's popularity 

With the usual caveat that by my circumstances and personality I am notoriously out of touch with the average American and therefore do not always understand the country's political mood, I do wonder whether Barack Obama's popularity is as deep as the chattering classes and typical Princetonian suppose. On the small chance that you have not seen them already, herewith a couple of items.

First, Drudge is headlining the latest Rasmussen poll, which shows that President Obama's "strongly disapprove" number has moved above the "strongly approve" for the first time. His overall approval rating is still 52%, but for the first time has fallen below the proportion of the popular vote he won on election day. The two numbers are obviously not directly comparable and the difference is well within the margin of error, but it is probably the case that there are at least a few voters with a case of the regrets. Presumably there would be more if John McCain had been a more convincing candidate.

Second, in a column that explores the influence of President Obama's popularity on the New Jersey governor's race, Alan Steinberg points out that the president's approval rating in Ohio has fallen from 62% to 49% in just the last two months. The election is a long way off, but news like that certainly ought to rattle the nerves of Blue Dog Democrats.

Steinberg also quotes Dick Morris (who, admittedly, offers his opinions with less reluctance than even most pundits):

Two weeks ago, I heard Dick Morris address the 2009 Patriot’s Forum of the Notre Dame Club of Central New Jersey at the Friend Center at Princeton University. The focus of Morris’s lecture was his core belief that President Obama’s popularity is headed for a meltdown, due to 1) the worsening condition of the economy: 2) the forthcoming increase in utility bills resulting from the Democrat climate change/energy package; and 3) the Obama health care proposals, which will transform American health care into the failed Canadian system.

During the question and answer period, I asked Morris how soon his predicted implosion of Obama’s popularity would occur, noting that Jon Corzine cannot be reelected as New Jersey’s governor without significant assistance from a popular Obama. His stunning reply was that “by October, no New Jersey Democrat will want Obama to come into the state – that’s how low his popularity will be.”

Assuming Morris stands at least some chance of being correct, it is not difficult to see why the administration and Congressional leadership is in such a dead rush to enact its legislation to restructure the health care (17% of GDP) and energy (10% of GDP) sectors of the economy. The lower Obama's numbers go, the more "urgent" it will be to get those bills through.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Jul 09, 07:56:00 AM:

I wrote this here yesterday without seeing Dick Morris:

"Obama & Co have created an environment that's hostile to investment in the real economy. Right now, smart money won't go near a real investment -- the kind that creates jobs. Instead some smart money has moved to speculative bets on markets -- like speculating on oil. Mostly, money is just sitting on the sidelines.

Stimulus I is proving a total failure because expectations about US borrowing -- and general fears about hope and change -- are chilling private investment. There's been a shocking collapse in private investment -- I saw figures of over 30% declines.

Back in March, I thought we'd hit 10% unemployment. Now I think we'll hit 12% by the end of the year with no recovery. But there will be no Stimulus II, as key Democrats have already come out against it. High gas prices, rising interest rates, and high unemployment will hit before Obama gets his sugar rush in 2010. He'll look very silly claiming credit for bullshit education grants when California can't afford to pay its teachers. It took Jimmy Carter three years to get us collectively fed up with him. Obama may do it in one. We'll know it's happened when enough Democrats in Congress bail on him."

Link, over  

By Blogger Elise, at Thu Jul 09, 09:37:00 AM:

The lower Obama's numbers go, the more "urgent" it will be to get those bills through.

I’m having a bit of a struggle with the logic here. Not TH’s logic but that of the Administration and Congress. Why are they so hell-bent on getting this done when the economy is hanging on by its fingernails and they must know there’s a significant chance they’re going to make things worse by restructuring health care and - for heaven’s sake - energy? After all, Obama and pretty much everyone in Congress want to be re-elected, some of them in the not too distant future.

I think it’s entirely possible Obama is simply incapable of believing there will come a time when he can’t sweet talk people into voting for him. But it seems to me that the Congressional leadership must believe one of three things to explain their haste:

1) Restructuring health care and energy is the right thing to do so they’re going to do it even though it negatively affects the economy and therefore damages their popularity and re-election chances.

2) Restructuring health care and energy will negatively affect the economy but most of the voters will accept that it was the right thing to do and will re-elect those who did the restructuring anyhow.

3) Restructuring health care and energy will either improve the economy fundamentally (as Obama claims) or make the economy look better via a bubble (as I fear).

I’m too cynical to believe the first; I think Congress is too cynical to believe the second; so I’m left with the third. Or I’m missing something and if so I'd like to know what.  

By Anonymous tyree, at Thu Jul 09, 09:38:00 AM:

Since my father was a doctor, and two of my uncles were a dentist and microbiologist I was raised with a greater awareness of the medical profession than most.

The bills that the Congress continues to pass without reading do nothing to address the damage done to the business the lawsuit industry. Government stood by and did nothing for decades to stop the greedy lawyers and now they refuse to address one of the primary reasons for the "crisis" that they claim we are in.

We need to address tort reform now. It actually would have been better if we would have done it 40 yeas ago. However, if we did the "crisis" would be averted without all of the socialism. And we all know that the current administration doesn't like wasting a good crisis.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Jul 09, 09:42:00 AM:

I made a similar point the other day, even though I wasn't so audacious as to say "October". Instead I was guessing by early the summer is when the Obama approval rating would have dropped to the point he would have become persona non grata even in Princeton, the bluest of blue towns.

Anyway, in the recent Gallup poll they make the point that even as Obama was being elected independents were declaring themselves ideologically more conservative.

I have a theory that the electorate might really care about deficits, suddenly, and if that's so then shortly you will start to hear the Congressional Democrats elaborately wrapping every new destruction of our country that they call "reforms" in very fiscally responsible messages. This could get interesting.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Jul 09, 09:46:00 AM:

The bills that the Congress continues to pass without reading do nothing to address the damage done to the business the lawsuit industry....We need to address tort reform now."

I enthusiastically agree. Obama is fond of saying that "no where else in the world is so much money spent on healthcare", when he should say that no where else in the world are tort lawyers getting rich off of the backs of the sick and helpless!

A national "option" is just another way of giving the tort lawyers the ultimate deep pocket to sue.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Jul 09, 10:08:00 AM:

Nouriel Roubini, Columbia University's "Dr. Doom" who called the recession so well, has written a new analysis of where we are headed. Read it in stages, if your stomach is like mine and can only take so much before starting to seize up in worry.

In the article he covers why the BLS reported unemployment numbers are built so as to understate the decline in employment during the downward cycle of a recession, where he believes we still are, why the stimuli (plural, as in both last year's stimulus and this year's) haven't worked, why the banking system is still undercapitalized and headed for more declines.

The basic problem is declining investment, by individuals and by employers. Business owners have gone Galt. Lefty columnists may believe the American economy can withstand anything, that business owners will never back away from investment, that the "rich" are endless sources of milk and honey for unemployed journalists, but to their dismay and our national sorrow we are about to find out that isn't true.

There is still time to fix this of course, but it will take a wholesale repudiation of the anti-business, anti-wealth policies of the Democrat party. It'll take lower taxes and less intrusion into the economy from Washington. They are in too deep to change right now, so we're probably headed for trouble. Big trouble.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Jul 09, 10:12:00 AM:

Roubini is at NYU. My mistake.  

By Anonymous Kurt, at Thu Jul 09, 11:39:00 AM:

Regarding tort reform, I'm always amazed that more people don't see how the Democrats' refusal to allow tort reform for health care is just their way of using a very big stick to enact their version of health care reform instead. They keep saying that they won't allow it because it wouldn't be "fair" to limit malpractice lawsuits, meanwhile driving the cost of malpractice insurance higher and consequently raising the cost of medical care. By making the cost unbearable, they force the "necessity" of a government takeover of health care. And once that takeover occurs, what do you suppose will be one of the first cost controlling measures they impose? Well, tort reform, of course--if not the outright elimination of lawsuits against the government health care system.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Jul 09, 12:20:00 PM:

"And once that takeover occurs, what do you suppose will be one of the first cost controlling measures they impose? Well, tort reform, of course."

Why would they do that? I think you are waaaay too optimistic.

Once the lawyers can sue the goverment, they will, in droves.
After winning, the tort lawyers will just recycle the usual percentage of their legal winnings into Democrat campaign donations. Business as usual.

It's the ultimate form of corruption. Once national health care is won, it'll take moving heaven and earth to change it.  

By Anonymous Kurt, at Thu Jul 09, 01:06:00 PM:

Well, I don't know if optimistic is the right word.

I think that any government run health care system is likely to limit lawsuits against it because not doing so would mean it would go bankrupt even faster than it ordinarily would on its own.

As far as the Democrats reliance on the Trial Lawyers for campaign donations, etc., that has certainly been true in the past. But if they pass health care reform, the trial lawyers will be a less important constituency because they'll be more interested in doing whatever it takes to hold on to power. As Mark Steyn is fond of saying, a single-payer, government-run health care system fundamentally changes the relationship between the citizen and the state. Once the Democrats have engineered that enormous power grab, things will never be the same.  

By Blogger Viking Kaj, at Thu Jul 09, 01:56:00 PM:

My short note:

Obama sux!  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Jul 09, 03:06:00 PM:

"Well, I don't know if optimistic is the right word."

Ok, "naive" is perhaps a better choice of word. I think any tort reform not part of the initial healthcare federalization will never come at all. You disagree, thinking the Democrat Congress will be forced to come to their senses at some point, even though the realization would require them to abandon one of the party's biggest financial support groups.

We can agree to disagree, but to me it seems inconceivably naive to think the Democrats will ever enact tort reform if it's not done right up front as part of their first legislation.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Jul 09, 03:47:00 PM:

Back in March, I thought we'd hit 10% unemployment. Now I think we'll hit 12% by the end of the year with no recovery.

We are entering the FOURTH month of the stimulus plan. For those keeping score, we hit 11%unemployment TWO YEARS into Reagan's first term despite Reaganomics. It took another couple of years, quadrupling the national debt, and a routing in the mid-term elections, before Reagan could right the ship and get unemployment back below 6%. Just saying.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Jul 09, 04:42:00 PM:

The BLS reports average unemployment in the year 1983 (two years into Reagan's first term) of 9.6%, and no single month was ever greater than 10.4% in that year. Remember, 1983 was the tail end year of a recession that started before he was elected and it was precisely because of the Kemp-Roth tax cuts that Reagan supported that the recession ended as quickly as it did.

As far as the current "stimulus" goes, as distinct from the first stimulus last year, the expectation is the stimulus money will begin to be spent in appreciable amounts sometime toward the end of next year. Tax cuts, of the Reganomics variety, would obviously have been much, much quicker and far more effective in promoting investment. Promoting investment would improve the economy, and get Americans back to work.

Sadly, Democrats don't care about getting us back to work: they care about making the wealthy less wealthy, about increasing unionization, about increasing the size of government, about promoting dependency and other such crap.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Jul 09, 05:10:00 PM:

One last point: the unemployment rate in November of 1980, election time, was 8.3% and was a significant factor in the election. In November of 1984, the next presidential election month, it was 7.2% and in November of 1988 it was 5.3%. The offyear election rout Reagan suffered in 1982 was in the peak unemployment month of the recession. Voters ignored the improving economic numbers in the broader economy and focused on the unemployment rate.

History will repeat itself insofar as the voters will have an ugly unemployment number weighing on their minds come November 2010 and so I believe they will vote the Democrats out in big numbers, absent ACORN election thefts. Sadly, I doubt the recession will be anywhere near over at that point and won't be until we also can vote the Obama administration out of the White House and into the dustbin of history.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Jul 09, 05:12:00 PM:

Ha! The BLS you cited also states that unemployment for 2008 was 5.8%.

Here is the month to month unemployment rates showing that the rate was 7.5% when Reagan took office and 10.8% in Dec. 1982.

Remember, 1983 was the tail end year of a recession that started before he was elected and it was precisely because of the Kemp-Roth tax cuts that Reagan supported that the recession ended as quickly as it did.

So based on your comment, it took Reagan three years to "fix" the recession that you state began before he took office. How much time are you going to give Obama to "fix" the recession that began before he took office? Six months? A year?  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Jul 09, 07:33:00 PM:

Are you questioning the Bureau of Labor statistics? They're the official keepers of employment statistics, so I'm not so sure what your complaint is with what they are saying.

As far as the 1979-81 recession goes, it was over within months of passing tax cuts and growth in GDP had resumed. Unemployment is a lagging indicator, but it too started declining very quickly. Your belief seems to be that "quickly" is not good enough and it should have declined immediately, which is not possible.

As a reference, here is the reported GDP (saving you time and effort, the Bureau of Economic Statistics keeps score for the government on recessions) by quarter after the tax cut bill was introduced in Congress:

1980q1 2,725.3
1980q2 2,729.3
1980q3 2,786.6
1980q4 2,916.9
1981q1 3,052.7
1981q2 3,085.9
1981q3 3,178.7
1981q4 3,196.4
1982q1 3,186.8
1982q2 3,242.7
1982q3 3,276.2
1982q4 3,314.4
1983q1 3,382.9
1983q2 3,484.1
1983q3 3,589.3
1983q4 3,690.4
1984q1 3,809.6
1984q2 3,908.6
1984q3 3,978.2
1984q4 4,036.3

As you can see growth resumed practically the minute the Republicans were elected, and fourth quarter GDP in 1984 at the end of Reagans first term was 51.7% larger than the last quarter of the disasterous Carter presidency. Annualized GDP doubled over Reagan's two terms in office, also a huge improvement over the Carter years.

In the end, what time Obama is given by voters will be in keeping with the electorate's long history of voting according to the economy and the numbers of American unemployed. I don't think the Democrats will be very happy with the economic numbers they face going into the midterm elections next year, and no one is going to be able to blame Bush. They'll blame the Democrats, and Obama, and rightfully so.

Our national nightmare will soon end!  

By Blogger randian, at Thu Jul 09, 09:01:00 PM:

Why are they so hell-bent on getting this done when the economy is hanging on by its fingernails and they must know there’s a significant chance they’re going to make things worse by restructuring health care and - for heaven’s sake - energy?

1) A lot of them are True Believers in socialism, though few would admit it publicly. I include Obama himself in that camp.
2) Nearly all believe in the Broken Window Fallacy.
3) The cynic in me says they don't want to make things better. The worse they make things the more they can push for greater government intervention.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Jul 10, 10:44:00 AM:

Latin American governments have for years tried to prevent capital from fleeing domestic tax regimes, and now the Obama administration will follow their leads. Latin government capital flight policies were notoriously unsuccessful, as the American government will also be. Desperate measures.

I predict a banner decade for Swiss banks.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Jul 10, 03:33:00 PM:

Via the Corner, Charles Krauthammer captures Obama's problem very well:

"This is the axiom of American politics. In the absence of a scandal or a losing war, the main determinant of a president's approval is the economy. And what he [Obama] has got on his hands—rising unemployment and a stock market that is now, after a slight run up, again in decline.

So people are feeling unhappy economically, and that's why his numbers are down."

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Fri Jul 10, 03:56:00 PM:

The really smart lefty Nate Silver agrees that Obama needs unemployment to rebound or he's in trouble. And Patterico's resident poll watcher Karl has a new post up describing the state poll numbers in battleground states that will have Washington buzzing all weekend. Hint, they're not good for Dear Leader.  

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