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January 17, 2008

Comments

I wouldn't be suprised to find a few women Republicans voting for Hillary though. (and they probably wouldn't tell their husbands)

Is Romney underestimating rank-and-file Republicans, or are you overestimating them? I guess we'll find out soon enough.

I'm not sure how well this comment dovetails with the general drift of your post, since you appear to be holding out hope that the GOP base will repudiate Romney for his pandering (Limbaugh and similar elements excluded), that self-reflection and awareness might discourage a rally-round effect among that base. I'm a bit skeptical, and think that the rubes, even if they know they're being played, are well willing to remain the third leg of that wobbly GOP stool if it becomes a choice between hewing to their professed principles or retaining the Presidency.

But that's not what I wanted to write exactly, the post brought to mind a post from Digby back in 2005 where she looked at the political divide in society and made a case, drawing on Lincoln's speech at Cooper Union, that the tribalism of the modern GOP base shares similarities to what Lincoln appeared to be addressing in his time... namely that the base:

"brook no compromise and instead repay those who would reach out to them with furious perfidy unless they show absolute fealty to every facet of the program. It is loyalty to “the cause”, however it is defined and however it changes in principle from day to day, that matters."

Thinking about both your post and Digby's, it almost seems comforting to think that the base, tribe, or whatever you'd like to call it, might act in such a manner that at least bears some resemblance to their supposed values and aims, however noxious. And it appears that Romney is desperately going through the motions that fealty might require, in a way that is transparent (I like the moonshine/overalls analogy) and should be obvious to the base... but I don't think it matters, in the general election, power is what ultimately matters and the base will justify falling in line with talk of judicial appointments and sheer anti-Democratic sentiment. Anyway, a rambling semi-dissent...or something.

As a native Kentuckian, it’s roughly akin to a businessman running for office showing up for a political speech barefoot, in overalls, with a moonshine jug, and talking in a phony Appalachian accent.

Already been done, right?

Michigan Republicans, however, snapped me back to reality. To be fair though, I don’t blame them all that much. Romney has extensive connections in the state, so it’s more understandable.

Don't forget his shameless "Marshall Plan for Michigan" pander. As an experienced businessman, the Mittster ought to realize that the reason the American auto industry has been in the shitter for the past 25 years is because they've been putting out a crappy, overpriced product, and that no amount of government money will prop them up if they don't improve their business model. If McCain hadn't done the opposite and acknowledged the uncomfortable truth that some of those jobs won't be back, the result might have been closer.

What’s more troubling is that the establishment – including the talk radio idiots – appear to be coalescing around the biggest phony in the entire race for either party.

To some extent, I think is just because he's the least unacceptable alternative in the race - Huckabee is too scary for a variety of reasons, McCain is too much of a loose cannon, Rudy's too much of a one-trick pony, and Thompson's too sluggish a campaigner to really have a chance to win in November. Republicans always have been good at deifying their leaders, and I guess that goes even for the crappy ones.

Perhaps I’m being naïve, but I sense a lot of discontent among “thinking conservatives” these days – more so than usual. My hope is that they’re tired of watching these juvenile shows.

For me, it's not so much the juvenile shows (IMO both engage in those, in equal measure, and both parties show contempt for their supporters at times - witness the Clinton campaign's willingness to piss on African-Americans with Lee Atwater campaign tactics, likely on the theory that they'll have nowhere else to go in November). It's the selling out of the principles of limited government, market-based solutions, and fiscal conservatism in favor of "power at all costs" pork-barrel vote buying (e.g. Bush increasing domestic spending more than any President since LBJ.)

This discontent, in turn, is what gives someone like Obama a window that few Democrats have had lately. There’s a realistic chance of seeing “Obama Republicans” in a general. “Hillary Republicans,” more doubtful.

That, and the fact that while he may be a liberal, he doesn't seem to be a liberal ideologue.

"The mindless tribalism of Romney's pandering . . . is a measure of the contempt in which he holds the electorate in general and Bush-era Republicans in particular."

They earned that contempt repeatedly, particularly in 2004. Bush had already proven himself a profligate spender, a bald-faced liar and a foreign policy disaster by 2004, and yet he was elected. Stupid is as stupid does.

What’s more troubling is that the establishment – including the talk radio idiots – appear to be coalescing around the biggest phony in the entire race for either party.

I don’t think this is new, as in “appear to be coalescing” around him just now.

First, I don’t listen to talk radio. But from reading the RW blogs, what I gather is that some of the big talkers have been hot for Romney for a while.

Limbaugh refuses to outright endorse a candidate, yet he has been singing Romney’s praises for months. He called him “Reaganesque” after the very first debate. No endorsement, but he apparently has had a pro-Romney section on his website since Jan 1 and he has consistently defended Romney against the “drive-by media”. At the same time he has just savaged Huckabee and almost daily denounces McCain.

Hewitt has been trashing McCain for more than a year and he calls Huckabee a socially liberal populist. Romney though? Apparently he has been in his “Harriet Miers” mode for a while.


There’s a realistic chance of seeing “Obama Republicans” in a general. “Hillary Republicans,” more doubtful.

Yes. And yes.

Forgot. My point is that RW talk radio is not just now coalescing around Romney because he is emerging as a strong candidate – it’s just the opposite.

Romney is doing well because he has been pushed by some of the big talkers for some time. As wealthy as he is, he couldn’t afford the advertising to reach the audience that Rush and Hewitt are giving him for free. The “in kind” value of Rush supporting you for months is probably in the billions.

OCSTeve wrote:
---
There’s a realistic chance of seeing “Obama Republicans” in a general. “Hillary Republicans,” more doubtful.

Yes. And yes
---

And yes. Obama could (I repeat *could*) be a game-changer in a positive way for Democrats. There's virtually no chance that Hillary will be such a figure.

no, no chance Hillary could be such as figure. but there's a good chance McCain could be one (for the R's of course). he's got that cross-party appeal, too.

Obama v McCain would be an interesting race: one i'd like to see in a parallel universe though. in this universe, i'd like to see Obama v Huckabee.

cleek: in this universe, i'd like to see Obama v Huckabee

Careful what you wish for. Huckabee has the anti-bestiality caucus wrapped up, that could be an important voting block:

Well, I don’t think that’s a radical view to say we’re going to affirm marriage. I think the radical view is to say that we’re going to change the definition of marriage so that it can mean two men, two women, a man and three women, a man and a child, a man and animal. Again, once we change the definition, the door is open to change it again. I think the radical position is to make a change in what’s been historic.


Has Obama even addressed the growing problem of bestiality in this country? I challenge you to even find Obama’s position on bestiality. Can’t do it can ya?

Romney is an articulate George Bush, willing to say anything. But he can string words together in their correct order.

Huckabee’s not my candidate of choice, but at least he’s not full of excrement.

(1) Amend the Constitution to bring it into conformity with the Protestant Christian Bible.
(2) Abolish income tax, and replace it with a national 30% sales tax.

There you are: two perfectly excremental ideas from your man Huckabee! I'm sure we could come up with more, if we thought about the matter for 10 more seconds, although he's not really worth that expenditure of effort.

I have to admit, though, that Huckabee is authetically excremental in marked contrast to Romney, who is simply the kind of guy you'd expect a snake oil salesman to be. So if you like you excrement to be authentic, Huckabee's your man!

With Huckabee, you're not going to like what you get, but at least you know what it's going to be: his best effort at the Republic of Gilead. Romney? Is he Kang or Kodos? Or something even worse, like the venal bustout schemoids we have now?

Actually, a well-documented group of Hillary Republicans exist. We call them the Clinton family. They are, however, a relatively small demographic, and have historically migrated north, generally from Arkansas to New York.

Well, no-one has come up with anything more astounding than the Huckabee idea of amending the Constitution to reflect God's views. Does this make him the first Arkansas Jihadist? Can we call him the Baptist Mullah of Hope? Admittedly, the Romney line is contemptible - but at this point, I think narrowly less evil than Huckabee's theologically illiterate fanaticism.

He’s clearly the most competent, wonkish, technocratic, and I would even say smartest candidate.

On the Republican side I'm sure you mean...

What’s more troubling is that the establishment – including the talk radio idiots – appear to be coalescing around the biggest phony in the entire race for either party. (Kerry said some foolish things, but he’s not essentially a phony – his mere political existence wasn’t a deep, ongoing insult to his party’s base). If Romney had run differently, this support would make more sense. But instead, everyone is endorsing the Great Idiot Show of '08.

But then again, maybe it all makes perfect sense. Maybe the idiots on talk radio – and DC Republicans too – are playing the same game as Romney. And maybe they too hold their respective audiences in implied contempt.

I think you've hit the nail on the head here. Romney is the Corp-Con candidate and its not surprising in the least that corporate whores in the media are flocking to his banner. Let's face it. Murdock backed 9ui11ani because they're both based in New York. But 9ui11ani and Mittens are effectively the same candidate with different haircuts. Romney is the Faux News candidate of choice. He's the mega-millionare tycoon that conservatives have been throwing on the block for ages.

The only difference between Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney and acting President Dick Cheney is the age in which they were elected. Cheney was elected during booming capitalism at the end of a decade of peace and prosperity. Mittens is running in the age of Islamo-llama-liberal-fascinistas. So the rhetoric changes, but the policies will be virtually identical.

McCain - I honestly don't know what he'll do. He's probably the sanest candidate in the race, but he's still scum. Huckabee isn't actually insane, but he's appealing to the flat-earth creationists so if his policies trend towards Magical Realism, we can't be surprised.

But Mitt Romney. He's the true "heir to Reagan-Bush". Its no surprise he's the establishment pick.

To lighten the topic a little: in my idle hours, I sometimes try and assess the Republirabble on their (presumed) musical tastes. So far, for Romney I have techno (vaguely rhythmic but doesn't really mean much), Giuliani is a heavy metal man (howls and screams but take away the banging and there ain't much left), John McCain is a Celtic Revival man (totally undocumented and mostly fake, but everyone loves the "authentic" sound"), while for Huckabee.. well, it has to be country western (a treacly sludge about how women have to stand behind their man). So far, Ron Paul defies classification, although the Horst Wessel Lied might be appropriate. Hmm, maybe we could even try a whole new thread on candidates and their music *grin*. And yes, any remarks about the types of music reflect my own tastes entirely.

While I agree that Romney is a full-of-crap candidate, I’m not so sure he would be all that bad as a president. This is a limited “endorsement”, if you can even call it that. (I had “Obama for President” tattooed on my forehead last night.) But for all his ham-fisted pandering, I get the sense that he would be fairly competent and pragmatic, and I think with a Dem controlled congress, not damaging to the republic. This is probably just my reaction to Bush comparisons, because I think those should be reserved for only the most toffee-nosed of twits in existence. But, yeah, the current phoniness I don’t dispute. In fact, if I thought he could be taken at his word, I’d probably find him a much scarier potential president.

So far, Ron Paul defies classification, although the Horst Wessel Lied might be appropriate.

Uh, no. Not even remotely.

@Anarch - care to explain? What about Ron Paul and his racist, white supremacist friends? What about the articles endorsing them in his own publication? Sorry, but if you get cash from neoNazis and have your picture taken grinning with them, you can't escape being considered a fellow-traveller.

This is probably just my reaction to Bush comparisons, because I think those should be reserved for only the most toffee-nosed of twits in existence.

Romney is about 10x more competent and intelligent than Bush, but otherwise I don't think the comparison is unwarranted, at least in terms of campaigning style - he's a former governor/scion of an important political family/establishment Republican who has mastered the art of micro-targeted pandering and appears willing to say literally anything to get elected. As I mentioned above, I think there's a legitimate fear that talk becomes action when he's sworn in as President and inane campaign promises become inane policies - once bitten, twice shy and all that.

His wonkishness and intelligence making it unlikely those policies would be AS inane as Bush's is only slight reassurance. Ironically, I'd trust him a lot more if he's forced to work with a Democratic legislature.

@Xeynon

The problem with your argument is that 10X mre intelligent and competent than Bush still leaves you at the lower end of the bungling moron scale.

The problem, though, is that Romney’s actions make it clear that he thinks GOP voters are slobbering idiots.

Well? Based on the last dozen years, there's plenty of proof to suggest that this is true of a significant portion of them.

What about Ron Paul and his racist, white supremacist friends?

That's great. Make his song "Dixie" then.

Sorry, but if you get cash from neoNazis and have your picture taken grinning with them, you can't escape being considered a fellow-traveller.

If you could kindly direct me to pictures of Ron Paul taken with, say, Storm Front, I'd be much obliged. [And no, the fact that Storm Front supports Ron Paul doesn't count, unless you're prepared to consider yourself a Stalinist-by-proxy.] If you can't, knock it off; "Nazi" has a specific meaning and Ron Paul, as far as I can tell, doesn't meet it.

The worse the economy gets the better Romney is starting to look to me.

I am a life long liberal who was part of the 'childrens crudade' for McCarthy and have supported every democrat in every election ever since.

Now that I am much older and I have responsibilities, and financial problems, I look at things differently.

So I'm thinking I might not be willing to roll the dice on Barack Obama come November.

When it comes right down to it, it is more important to have a person who understands how the economy and the government works than a figurehead for unity in the oval office. Romney may not meet my political preferences but at least he would be ready to take charge whatever situation we find ourselves in when he takes office.

http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=28353&only

Since you want pictures of Ron Paul with StormFront....

Well sonofabitch. There really is a Storm Front picture out there. That still doesn't make Paul a Nazi but this -- and his refusal to return Storm Front monies -- does make him more, uh, tainted by Nazism than I had thought. My apologies.

That's ok, Anarch. Consider yourself hugged and readmitted to the fold. *grin*

"If you could kindly direct me to pictures of Ron Paul taken with, say, Storm Front, I'd be much obliged."

Curse you for making me link where I'm going to link, Anarch. Ron Paul's Photo-Op with Stormfront. HTH, as we say.

Might I suggest googling the relevant words -- "Ron Paul" and "Stormfront" -in this case -- first, next time you ask such a question?

Xeynon: the posting rules prohibit profanity, partly because of workplace filters, and partly because we find it helps with our ongoing, possibly futile efforts to maintain civility.

Others (not everyone): It also helps in the ongoing effort to maintain civility to be quite clear about who you're talking about. Thus, I assume, from context, that nickzi's 'Republirabble' is meant to refer to the GOP candidates, not to Republicans in general, but it would probably help to be clearer. Also, if you feel contempt, to say why rather than just adopting plainly contemptuous names.

I thought that at least the 'be clear' part was dumb when I first heard it, back when I was a commenter and not part of the HiveMind. I said something about 'the Republicans', and it was (to me) clear from context that I meant the GOP leadership, not all Republicans. Moe Lane ripped into me. The more I hung around here, the clearer it was to me that I was wrong, both because it seemed intellectually lazy of me not to be more specific, but also because it really did reduce the chances of any sort of illuminating conversation -- the kind of conversation that is, for me, the point of it all.

Thanks, and sorry to be schoolmarmish.

http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/2007/11/dark-side-of-paul-phenomenon.html


I'd suggest that this article is well worth reading. Neiwert's credentials as a serious researcher are well known, especially in this field.

About Ron Paul: if we're going with Nazi analogies, which I'd rather not, I suggest Hindenburg as a more apt analog. Only without either the immense prestige or the excuse of senility.

Hewitt has been trashing McCain for more than a year and he calls Huckabee a socially liberal populist. Romney though? Apparently he has been in his “Harriet Miers” mode for a while.

You know a candidate by the company they keep: Hewitt's best quality is his glibness; if he backed anyone other than Romney, I'd be shocked.

That said, Publius' thesis that there are Obama Republicans out there but perhaps not Hillary Republicans holds for me. The only way that I see casting a vote for Hillary is if Huckabee gets the R nod. But put up Obama, and the race gets much more interesting.

Sorry, do consider "Republirabble" amended to "a miscellaneus assortment of deeply disunified Republicans who happen to hold illogical and inconsistent and frequently dishonest positions, but whose right to hold these inconsistent, incoherent and dishonest positions I deeply, profoundly and joyously respect".

OT funny tangent: Back in '98 or so, when I was still fairly new to the internet, I was looking for some info on the history of Moorish incursions into Spain. I found what I thought was a relevant article without noticing its source. It was fairly interesting, but as I got further into it, weird talk of the loss of the ethnic purity of the Spanish causing their empire and status as a world power to diminish started. That's when "What the hell is this?" popped into my head. The source was Stormfront, of which I had no previous knowledge. Of course it didn't take long to figure out what they were about.

Hilzoy, the problem with your analogy is that Hindenburg despised the Nazis, thought of Hitler as "the Bohemian corporal" and tried fairly hard to avoid having them in government. He did not publish newsletters tainted with extremist fair-right views, nor did he accept money from them. Other than that, Hindenburg was the pivot of the political system in the rather confused system of German democracy at that time. Ron Paul simply does not compare historically. As the article by Neiwert makes clear, Ron Paul has done quite a bit of courting and teasing where the neoNazis are concerned. I think that your defense of Paul is profoundly mistaken on these points.

As a native Kentuckian, it’s roughly akin to a businessman running for office showing up for a political speech barefoot, in overalls, with a moonshine jug, and talking in a phony Appalachian accent.

Or maybe a wealthy New Englander showing up in Texas, talking in a phony west Texas accent and playing the good ole boy? It's been done and it worked remarkably well for the politician in question. Offensive, yes, but also effective.

Gary Farber: Might I suggest googling the relevant words -- "Ron Paul" and "Stormfront" -in this case -- first, next time you ask such a question?

You might. Might I, in a spirit of reciprocity, suggest you continue reading the thread for, oh, two or three posts further before offering such suggestions?

von: You know a candidate by the company they keep...

What's your opinion of Ron Paul?

Also, what Dianne just said.

Gary is on a slow connection, so later comments probably showed up while he was trying to post his comment.

I agree with hairshirthedonist that I doubt a Romney presidency would reflect the campaigning style so scornfully looked upon here. If we only look at record, he looks great. His problem is the typical "focus group" problem of trying to stay on message instead of being who you are. If he simply ran for who he is it would be different.

A few comments to keep the conversation from veering left off the cliff ("stupid is as stupid does"???!:

-Everyone panders. Think HRC in black southern churches (lj: isn't that the Democratic equivalent of Fred Thompson's truck?). Romney's pandering isn't very smooth but to fault him is to fault everyone. Xeynon, there is enough blame in Detroit to go around. I worked in the car business. GM tried to show a profit by screwing the dealers and it looked good on paper for a few months. Now the truth comes out. But the fact is that 1 in 5 jobs in America are directly related to the auto business. Remember the economy post 9-11? GM's 0% by 60 month program jump started the economic doldrums. We're hooked on cars. I don't like it, but it's a fact and anyone who isn't concerned about Detroit risks putting us in a depression.

I also think it is more than a little ironic that the beneficiary of the "Marshall Plan East" isn't exactly the most friendly free trade partner we could have when it comes to cars. That's another topic . . .

-Romeny's "Double Guantanamo" statement should be heard in context. If you haven't listed yet, go listen and then judge. Is Guliana's response better? How about McCain? Who wouldn't want to double the size of Guantanamo if we had had three successful terrorist attacks and a fourth larger one about to happen and the terrorists were coming to our shores in boats? I, for one, am in favor of putting any person coming to our shores with the intent to blow up shopping malls with lots of people in them in Guantanamo rather than on American soil. I'm not quite sure how this is pandering.


-It's the selling out of the principles of limited government, market-based solutions, and fiscal conservatism in favor of "power at all costs" pork-barrel vote buying (e.g. Bush increasing domestic spending more than any President since LBJ.)

This is exactly my concern with the current crop in Washington (both sides) and one that I do not have with Romney based on what I know. Can anyone point to specifics in Romney's track record that would show otherwise?

-I think it is telling that Publius' main problem is not that Romney lacks fundamental substance but essentially lacks campaigning style. Wasn't that Al Gore's problem? So the side that adores Gore now has a problem with a smart but ham-fisted campaigner?

"But the fact is that 1 in 5 jobs in America are directly related to the auto business."

I've heard this before but it is hard to believe. Is it maybe 1 in 5 manufacturing jobs in America are directly related to the auto business? Or does 'directly related' include things like gasoline sales, mechanic operations, and motor oil or other maintainence products that would still be important even if we were using old cars? Because for my definition of 'directly related' (involved in the manufacturing, distributing or sale of new cars or new car parts) it seems really unlikely.

I did a quickie search and didn't find anything. Anyone have a useful link?

"You might. Might I, in a spirit of reciprocity, suggest you continue reading the thread for, oh, two or three posts further before offering such suggestions?"

I'm sorry for the pile-on. You can suggest it all you like, and it will still be a fact that no one had commented when I typed what I typed, and hit "post."

Generally speaking, it's perfectly common, I observe, for comments with time-stamps of at least 6-9 minutes after another to show up and it's clear that the commenter didn't get to see previous comments within that timespan.

In my own experience, the timespan can be a lot longer, since if one has multiple tabs open, and has to go through the captcha 5 or 8 times, while also going backwards and repasting in the comment, while also making sure to delete the cookie each time -- which can take around 3-8 or more minutes before a comment actually ends up posting -- but if one is doing that, and then checking another tab, one might not notice the lack of posting for another five, ten, twenty minutes.

For the record, however, due to a couple of people offering to make up the difference, and with me otherwise switching certain expenses around, making it overall no more expensive for me than my previous expenses, I was able to move to broadband last week. As it's an overwhelming change to my online experience, and I've not yet remotely adjusted to it, and not yet absorbed how I need to change so many of my online habits and approaches, this is the first time I'm mentioning it.

But I wasn't intentionally piling on, Anarch, and I wasn't being careless, either. Broadband doesn't change the fact that it still can (it doesn't always) take me 14 or 20 steps to get a comment posted here, and a noticeable amount of time.

Sorry for the effect.

bc,

I find myself very sympathetic to your views on Romney.

I think you are right on saying he is a clumsy campaigner.

Knowing from personal experience the caliber of men generally found in the upper eschalons of American business I have always thought his campaign style was pretty fake and did not adequately represent the man.

Generally, I would never have given him a second look as his politics are opposite of mine. But the reason I am giving him another look-see is because Obama has a good chance of winning the Democratic nomination. I know, I know, I am going against the convential wisdom around here about Obama but I don't think he is the best candidate on the issue that matters most to me now. ie the economy.

Ronmey will be more than another CEO President. He has already demonstrated how hands on management is needed to get things actually done. Witness his efforts at Blain Capital, the Olympics, and as Governor.

Gary: I was able to move to broadband last week.

Oh noes…. The Internet is doomed! Doomed I say. Dialup was the only thing constraining the man! ;)

Seriously though – congrats.

"Seriously though – congrats."

It's honestly very disorienting. It's going to take me quite a while to re-adjust habits of almost thirteen years, and to come up with new habits.

My knee-jerk reaction is still to be cranky at people posting videos and expecting everyone to have easy access: should I work on getting over that, or maintain it on behalf of all the other people still unable to afford broadband?

And make no mistake, accessing today's internet on dialup isn't even remotely the same as it was just two years ago: even pages with no video or audio standardly tend to take a minute or so to load on dialup, simply because there are so many widgets and extras and lines of code added onto text pages as a matter of course, nowadays.

Trying to cruise today's internet on dialup is like trying to drive on an interstate with a go-cart that you push with your feet. It's an exceedingly slow experience, and you're in constant danger of being knocked off the road entirely at any moment, though fortunately, injuries are never serious.

The internet has become seriously not-very-usable on dialup, any more. Not, at least, for more than emergency short periods.

I only hope I never have to go back for long. But I'm not apt to forget that plenty of folks have less access (or none, of course) than I do.I hope.

So far, Ron Paul defies classification

Roscoe Holcomb.

Thanks -

bc: "I think it is telling that Publius' main problem is not that Romney lacks fundamental substance but essentially lacks campaigning style."

Hmm. My interpretation of this was different. Publius can speak for himself, but I think the point he was making is that Romney is choosing not to run on his substance (or to run in the opposite direction from his substance) because he thinks that Republican voters will respond better to positions that he himself doesn't hold.

Could you honestly vote for any guy who tied his dog and dog carrier to the top of his car for a road trip. When I heard him explain the incident he regreted that he didn't know it was illegal.

Sebastian:

It looks like the numbers are more like 1 in 10 or 1 in 20.

I'm not sure how Romney's proposals necessarily equate to corporate welfare. The auto industry is struggling. I wouldn't say it is as much product related as Xeynon suggests (although that was certainly true into the 90's) as cost related. Point-in-fact:

health care costs per vehicle u.s. v. Japan (BTW, Xeynon, how much of the differential in quality is just that alone? $1,000 per vehicle would go a long ways towards closing the gap IMHO).

Romney seems to understand the problem with imposing huge costs on an industry via regulation. He also sees an opportunity to improve the industry and address global warming concerns at the same time. Some reading here.

Which other candidate would you trust with the assignment to: 1) Help the Auto industry; 2) Improve emissions and fuel economy; and 3) Not crush the U.S. economy in the process?

Romney, who is simply the kind of guy you'd expect a snake oil salesman to be

What else would you expect from someone who's likely to turn into a giant snake on his ascension to the presidency?

ken, what do you want done about the economy that Romney would do better than Obama?

I see two overarching problems:
1) Deregulation. The Common Wisdom is that we overregulate, because of Sarbanes-Oxley. Maybe so, but at the same time, we underfund the SEC & FTC, divert the DoJ away from antitrust or investor fraud cases, and generaly, as shown in the housing market, let business get away with obviously unsound practices until after the horse has left the barn. To the extent we fund the relevant agencies at all, we fill them with cronies and hacks. I would trust any Democrat over any Republican to clean house and enforce some rules, because deregulation and cronyism are basic tenets of the Republican Party as it now stands. Trim down the crooks and the megacorporations, and small entrepreneurs might have a chance to grow the economy.

2) Free trade run amok. We give tax advantages to companies for moving their industrial jobs out of the country. We cling to unproductive protectionism in agriculture and refuse to even consider smart, temporary, targeted protectionism in industrial fields. We put a historically and globally low percentage of tax revenue into stimulating R&D. Again, I don't see Romney, or any other Republican (maybe Huckabee) addressing these problems - it's antithetical to the Party ideology.

A quick look at the candidates' websites confirms my impression that Romney is not serious about the economy. He has a lot of vague rhetoric, and basically three policy proposals: cut taxes for everybody, especially big corporations (no word on how we pay for anything), reform education for long-term productivity growth, and tort reform. These would at best solve nonexistent economic problems. http://www.mittromney.com/Issues/global-economic-competition

Obama presents an amazing contrast to this ideological blather. He has much more detail, and targets too many specific (and real) problems for me to list, with reasonably low-cost and innovative solutions. Please take a look. http://www.barackobama.com/issues/economy/

My knee-jerk reaction is still to be cranky at people posting videos and expecting everyone to have easy access

My knee-jerk reaction is to be annoyed at people who want me to sit through a video. Especially at work, where all my neighbors have to listen. Reading is quiet and I can do it at my own speed.

In a sense, a good majority of the economy does relate to the auto industry - it just depends on how your define relationship, and in what terms you frame its significance. After all, you can argue that cars are the majority means of transport, which people take to go on vacation, buy groceries, take children to school etc etc. Thus, in some sense, the auto industry can be tied to just about any aspect of daily life you care to name. Whether that means much in terms of the domestic auto industry is anther matter.

"Especially at work, where all my neighbors have to listen."

You feel you'd look obtrusive, or that people would know you were doing something that wasn't work, if you plugged earphones/pieces into the jack?

Well, a lot of video links don't have transcripts, so sometimes you can't offer an alternative if you want people to know what was said, without being accused of distortion. And you can stop the video, you know.

bc, you're citing a University of Michigan study funded by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, so right off the bat I doubt their numbers. And they're counting, not just manufacturing, parts supply, service, and dealers, but also millions of "induced" jobs such as "realtors who sell homes to auto workers." This begins to get silly. Do we honestly think none of these people would find anything to do if GM went to its much-deserved liquidation?

Also, since many of those manufacturing jobs in the US serve the needs of foreign auto manufacturers who buy parts here or have factories here, there is no obvious need to sacrifice cruicial environmental goals and spend tax money to preserve inefficient automakers just because they are nominally American.



trilobite:

I'm not going to spend any time defending particular numbers of "jobs" created by the auto industry because I agree that it can get silly. But I believe the auto industry is tremendously important to the economy.

I also agree that American automakers are not as efficient as they can be. UAW rules have a lot to do with that. But it is not that simple.

What about concerns of Japan artificially keeping the Yen low against the dollar? I don't even pretend to know enough about macroeconomics to do much more than raise the issue. The $1,000 "health care surcharge" plus the reported $3,000+ advantage in currency exchange is a huge burden for any industry. Sometimes I'm amazed they're still around.

tribolite,

Our economy is in urgent need of fiscal stimulas, right now.

Of all the democratic candidates he is the only one who has not addressed this issue. His position is that the tax plan he proposes for 2009 is enough. That is just plain foolish.

Senator Clinton, on the other hand, has offered both a short term stimulas plan as well as policies to address longer problems facing the economy. Clinton as a Senator can bring this up in legislation.

The beef on Obama is that his actions do not match his rhetoric. We have an urgent need for some action NOW. Just today Ben Bernanke endorsed short term fiscal stimulas at a public congressional hearing on the subject. The ideas considered will include Senator Clintons proposals. Where is Obama? He is off talking about how much people loved Reagan. WTF?

On the republican side I see Romneys campaign in Michigan as a demonstration that he does not have the traditional republican hands off attitude to economies in a big world of hurt.I may not totally approve, but he has more a sense of what needs to be done than does Obama.

Come November, given the gravity of the issues we face, I am seriously doubting I would want want to place Obama in charge.

And as for free trade I don't believe it has been the net loss disaster many people make it out to be.

Your stongest point is the need for good people and adequate funding for regulators. On this you suggest that that Romney will be as bad as Bush. I just don't see him that way.

You feel you'd look obtrusive, or that people would know you were doing something that wasn't work, if you plugged earphones/pieces into the jack?

That, and I can't be bothered to bring them into work.

Well, a lot of video links don't have transcripts, so sometimes you can't offer an alternative if you want people to know what was said, without being accused of distortion.

I don't mind so much if people summarize the key points and give a link as backup. But many people just say "Look -- here's what he said, see?," and expect me to sit through minutes of blather to get to the only relevant line. Also, 9 times out of 10, when I look for a transcript I can find one, so I don't think that's usually the issue.

And you can stop the video, you know.
Sure, but it still goes at talking pace, which is a lot slower than reading pace. Also, I can't go back and forward with as much precision. And if I want to talk about it, then I have to transcribe, which is usually too much work to bother with.

Most of the time, linking to videos is the lazy way of relaying information (for anything substantive, I'm not talking about music or comedy). Personally, I'm too lazy to do that much work to find out what they wanted to convey.

I also agree that American automakers are not as efficient as they can be. UAW rules have a lot to do with that. But it is not that simple.

I agree that it's not that simple. A couple of things I'd also put on the table for consideration:

Compare Japanese executive compensation with American.

Compare the general relationship between management and labor in Japan and the US. Here, it is adversarial. Is that so in Japan also? If not, why not?

Finally, if Japanese auto manufacturers have a lower labor cost due to a smaller obligation for health care, how is health care funded in Japan?

Thanks

"Free trade run amok. We give tax advantages to companies for moving their industrial jobs out of the country. We cling to unproductive protectionism in agriculture and refuse to even consider smart, temporary, targeted protectionism in industrial fields."

I don't understand how that can be characterized as free trade amok. Tax advantages and ag subsidies are essentially just the flip side of tariffs. (Adding to the prices of imports is the same as subtracting them from domestic products). That isn't free trade *at all*.

bc -- what would you consider a good ballpark for the Yen vs. the USD? It's up to around 107 now, compared with lows of 121 within the last year. Do you consider that still undervalued? (I'm in no way being facetious here, macroeconomics isn't my specialty either.)

OCSteve, your Huckabee quote caught my attention.

I think the radical view is to say that we’re going to change the definition of marriage...

I'm wondering if he thinks the radical view is to say that we're going to change the definition of "person" to include the unborn. Like many other conservatives, he simply wants to conserve things he agrees with, and is quite willing to change things he doesn't. Exactly how this differs from many liberals escapes me.

bc

I don't know enuf about macroeconomics either. Can't follow the math --> can't talk intelligently about it. I do note that a) many people who can follow the math disagree vehemently on virtually every point,
b) we are, I hear, the only major nation NOT protecting our industries much, which offhand seems foolish, and
c) all countries impose costs on their manufacturers. I have no idea whether ours are under a heavier burden of regulatory compliance costs, taxes, and wage/benefit controls relative to government handouts than others', and I'm not sure it's possible to make such a comparison meaningfully.

ken,

I think our economy is in need of something, but haven't we been using all the classic stimulus tools (lower taxes, lower interest rates, lower enforcement) already? Constantly, in good times and bad? How much lower can we possibly go? We're already borrowing so much to pay for all our cuts that our dollar is weaker than ever in my lifetime, and we already have huge chunks of our federal debt held by China and other semi-hostile nations. I don't think we can afford to keep bailing out industries without making any real effort to strengthen them.

That's what I meant when I said Romney was not serious. He's a classic borrow-and-spender, on behalf of big business. We've been doing that for 7 years, and it has not helped. We took a long time and built up a lot of debt to get out of a minor recession, grew the economy at a lackluster rate and with no benefit to 90% of the population, and now it turns out that most of the gain was a bubble that is now bursting. This is not a problem we can solve by blindly throwing money at it. So I think the last thing we need is yet another "stimulus" package that fails to address any of the underlying problems.

Traditionally, Japanese companies have a fairly amicable relationship with workers, due to job security, company morale-boosting measures etc. The lower costs may arise to some degree from tightly controlled parts suppliers, who are generally kept under the thumb of their clients and gouged on prices. Healthcare is, I think, generally quite pricy in Japan, so I suspect that this is not where the difference lies.

Sebastian, if we effectively subsidize the movement of capital and jobs out of the country, we make trade in and of itself the priority -- regardless of its effects on our economy. That's what I meant by "free trade run amok." Movement of capital and jobs elevated to an ideology, reminiscent of the insane one-size-fits-all Soviet industrialization policies.

Ag subsidies are anti-free trade, but IMO the only reason we have them is that we have had them for so long that the farm states think of them as an entitlement. (which goes back to publius's oft-repeated point that disproportionate Senate and Electoral College allocation has seriously skewed our national decisionmaking process). Instead of using protectionism as a flexible tool for economic growth, we protect products that do us relatively little good for reasons that have nothing to do with economics, while, in the name of free trade, we refrain from using the same methods to protect the industries we most need to retain and grow.

Japan has a National Health Care system which is quite pricey, yes, but the amount gets lopped off your paycheck directly with the rest of taxes with direct withholding. Since salaries are advertised post-tax withholding this means: a) I don't know how much I officially make, and b) who cares?

BC wrote:

"...there is enough blame in Detroit to go around. I worked in the car business. GM tried to show a profit by screwing the dealers and it looked good on paper for a few months."

I suppose another thing that could be tacked on in the blame category for Detroit could be the decision to ride the SUV wave for so long, without developing alternate plans for the time when oil would rise so high. The light truck bodies used in SUV's, IIRC, were cheaper, and didn't need to meet certain mileage standards, for instance. Management took short term gain of producing/selling the gas guzzlers because they were a boon to the bottom line, but failed to adequately plan for today when smaller and more efficient cars might actually be considered by commuters. Long term planning, bah, let the Japanese automakers do that...

Another thing about Michigan is the housing market, it's dramatic decline has hurt many skilled tradesmen who could count on making 20-50 dollars an hour, and now have to scrape for work now that the market is glutted and there are no buyers out there. Maybe that was shortsightedness (ok, it was) to expect that to continue forever, and could be considered another debacle an industry in MI brought upon itself by short-term thinking...

"Sebastian, if we effectively subsidize the movement of capital and jobs out of the country, we make trade in and of itself the priority -- regardless of its effects on our economy."

I don't understand what this sentence means. What policy do you think "effectively subsidizes the movement of capital and jobs out of the country"? That we allow international telephone calls? That we allow ships with goods to arrive at our ports? I don't really understand what you are talking about.

"Ag subsidies are anti-free trade, but IMO the only reason we have them is that we have had them for so long that the farm states think of them as an entitlement. (which goes back to publius's oft-repeated point that disproportionate Senate and Electoral College allocation has seriously skewed our national decisionmaking process). Instead of using protectionism as a flexible tool for economic growth, we protect products that do us relatively little good for reasons that have nothing to do with economics, while, in the name of free trade, we refrain from using the same methods to protect the industries we most need to retain and grow."

Your first sentence explains what is wrong with the rest. There is no such practicial thing as flexible protectionism for economic growth. When you politically give in to subsidies, it is incredibly hard to withdraw them later. (Again, see Detroit). Furthermore I don't have any idea why you think there are lots of good protectionist measures that we ought to be taking that would help the economy more than free trade.

I think the radical position is to make a change in what’s been historic.

It sure has -- Just ask the Love's! So The Huck is correct in one part of that speech -- just not in the way he meant.

the posting rules prohibit profanity, partly because of workplace filters, and partly because we find it helps with our ongoing, possibly futile efforts to maintain civility.

Oops - consider me properly chastised. I'll be more careful in the future.

Re: the auto industry - bc, you make some good points. The auto industry is important, and regulatory costs are a concern - I don't have a problem with the part of Romney's plan that involves streamlining those. As far as Japan goes, yes, healthcare is quite expensive, as are regulatory costs. Japanese automakers tend to be more vertically integrated, which helps. But the problem with massaging the exchange rate hasn't really been true for awhile - the Japanese economy is still pretty weak and the yen is weak against a lot of currencies, including the dollar. Besides, what about the increasing market share of European and Korean cars? Both the Euro and the won have soared in value against the dollar in the past 10 years, and their cars are still selling well..

I think the fact that most of the major automotive innovations of the last 20 years have come either from Europe or E. Asia speaks to a certain risk aversion and lack of creativity in Detroit. Foreign automakers have a long-term track record of producing better products (although I agree U.S. cars have improved of late). More favorable regulation and all the seed money in the world will only go so far unless GM et. al. fix those problems themselves.

Sorry, y'all have had a busy nite
lj: isn't [HRC going to black churches] the Democratic equivalent of Fred Thompson's truck?
I don't think so, it's not where you go, it is how you travel there.

I have an anecdote (and I'm kicking myself about not saving the link), but I think it was GM who reintroduced their cars to Japan last year, and the quotes from the visiting VP who was lauding how they were going to give the Japanese what they wanted, a sense of freedom and independence. This, coupled with Chevy 'Our Country, Our Car' suggests that there is no way in hell that the US auto companies are going to pull their heads out and all of Romney's attempts are just throwing good money after bad.

regulatory costs are a concern - I don't have a problem with the part of Romney's plan that involves streamlining those

What regulatory costs are you talking about?
What regulations does the US auto industry operate under that aren't also in force in either Japan or Europe?
What is Romney going to do to "streamline" them?

If auto industry jobs are located in the US, why do we care if the name on the label is Honda, Volkswagen, or GM?

Thanks -

Could you honestly vote for any guy who tied his dog and dog carrier to the top of his car for a road trip.

Could you honestly vote for any guy who married a woman who used to cut up live dogs as part of a sales demonstration? Could you honestly vote for any guy whose kid tortures dogs to death?

(This of course is why the Democrats regularly get 90% of the Canine-American vote . . .)

rea, dare I ask which lady is Cruella de Vil here? (I hope hilzoy will not consider use of the De Vil name to be somehow out of sync with the delicate and non-confrontational ethos in which we thrive).

BBB, I don't think there's any rule against vilifying individuals, as long as they're not commenters here (and as long as you're not calling for their assassination).

I am tired of auto companies' complaints about health care costs. They are no excuse for the industry's troubles.

First of all, retiree costs are logically irrelevant to their ability to compete with foreign automakers. To put these in per vehicle terms is silly. The costs don't change with the number of cars sold.

Second, workers' health care is going to paid for somehow. Maybe it's more visible in the case of US companies, because it's done through insurance, but it's there in other countries as well. If you have a government-run system taxes will be higher, but the net effect is similar.

Third, let's hear the auto execs (and Romney) start advocating major major reform in the US system before we take their complaints too seriously.

Finally, let's not lose sight of the fact that they don't seem to know how to make decent cars. The US auto industry over the past 35 years or so is a study in mismanagement, inertia, and blindness to the realities of the marketplace.

it was GM who reintroduced their cars to Japan last year, and the quotes from the visiting VP who was lauding how they were going to give the Japanese what they wanted, a sense of freedom and independence. This, coupled with Chevy 'Our Country, Our Car' suggests that there is no way in hell that the US auto companies are going to pull their heads out and all of Romney's attempts are just throwing good money after bad.

Yup. What's needed for US automakers, IMO, is a good, market-based kick in the rear. Looking to the government for a bailout/protection against the big foreign meanies is just going to further entrench already stodgy old guard management. Will a market correction hurt in the short run? Yeah, definitely. And that's an issue we'll have to deal with in terms of the real world pain of lost jobs, etc. But applying Band Aids isn't going to close the wound. If the big three want to cut costs, they could start by cutting the pay of their overpaid, incompetent corporate leadership.

What regulatory costs are you talking about?
What regulations does the US auto industry operate under that aren't also in force in either Japan or Europe?
What is Romney going to do to "streamline" them?

My understanding is that there's quite a bit of bureaucratic redundancy with the various regulations of OSHA, UAW, etc. which Romney has proposed hacking down a bit - but I haven't read all the specifics so I don't want to make any specific claims about what that entails. In general, it seems like a pretty good idea, though.

If auto industry jobs are located in the US, why do we care if the name on the label is Honda, Volkswagen, or GM?

Personally, I don't really care, and the factory workers won't either, though the automotive engineers will. The thing is, Honda and Volkswagen aren't whining to the government, because they had the vision to develop excellent models at the compact, high MPG end of the market and their cars are selling just fine.

Has Obama even addressed the growing problem of bestiality in this country? I challenge you to even find Obama’s position on bestiality. Can’t do it can ya?

Personally, I'm a little upset at Huckabee's failure of vision here. What about marriage between humans and blow-up dolls? Or humans and robots? Or robots and blow-up dolls? There's clearly an entire cluster of issues here which need to be on the table.

In a bit of defense of US automakers, they really got spoiled by the move to big, high margin trucks and vans. If someone is going to throw money at you, what do you do? (not that I have any experience in that)

I'm not a huge automotive fan, but we are thinking about our next car purchase, and we've gone with Honda since the first car I bought here, so I'm looking at what they have, and this is their latest notion. While it is a 'concept car', it is said that it will be in production in 2009. And there is also the FCX, which uses a hydrogen fuel cell that is going to be offered this summer here. I might be wrong, and perhaps there are some people here who could point to similar projects that US automakers doing that are as close the production as these.

rea, dare I ask which lady is Cruella de Vil here?

The Third Mrs. Giuliani.

Whoa, Xeynon:

The thing is, Honda and Volkswagen aren't whining to the government, because they had the vision to develop excellent models at the compact, high MPG end of the market and their cars are selling just fine.

Honda and Volkswagen are certainly whining to their governments, constantly. Volkswagen is even part-owned by the state of Lower Saxony, and their tedious negotiations for more subsidies ("or we'll move all German jobs to Poland!") are perennial.

What they both have, though, is a domestic market where efficiency is rewarded in ways that don't (didn't?) apply in the USA. Even when gas is $3/gal., we're still well below the price that Europeans pay, to say nothing of what Japanese drivers have to pay. Thus, they have better product to throw at expensive-fuel markets.

Unfortunately, the USA is also a market where customers are NOT accustomed to paying top dollar for small cars (Mini excepted). So Ford and GM have brilliant autos that sell well in Europe, and which would sell well here -- at $5000 loss per car, since nobody's going to pay $28,000 for a Focus. Because, I guess, we want to buy Ford Focuses for $9000 and if it's more than $15K, it better weigh two tons and get 14 MPG.

Honda and Volkswagen are certainly whining to their governments, constantly.

Decent point - this kind of stuff certainly does happen everywhere. VW at least has more leverage, though - they have the option of manufacturing their cars in a neighboring state with much lower wages, regulatory fees, etc. without worrying about incurring high transportation costs. As for Japan, the ruling party and the bigwigs of the corporate world are so intertwined as to be practically the same - it really is the only country where communism has ever worked, as Thomas Friedman said.

Unfortunately, the USA is also a market where customers are NOT accustomed to paying top dollar for small cars (Mini excepted)

That's a fair point. I'd rejoin that U.S. consumers are gonna have to get used to the idea that "compact car" means something other than "cheapo piece of junk I buy because it's the only new car I can afford". U.S. automakers haven't exactly helped to foster a market for more upscale compacts in the U.S. by marketing nicer/more comfortable/more luxurious versions to American consumers - as several commenters have pointed out, they've been content to ride the SUV wave. I'd argue that consumers might be forgiven for not thinking about the reality that $1 gas wasn't going to be the norm forever. Most people can't be bothered to worry about peak oil, Venezuelan politics, etc. U.S. auto corporate leadership, given that their business is dependent on the oil industry and it's their job to anticipate future developments and plan for them, shouldn't be cut as much (any?) slack.

To make a tasteless joke:
Since cars stolen in Germany are usually transferred to Poland* (Heute gestohlen, morgen in Polen), why not produce them there and spare the thieves (and the atmosphere) the extra gasoline.
Another cruel (but true) joke is that suicide car bombers love SUVs. Cars were blown up in Iraq that had been stolen in Texas (source: Buda's Wagon - A brief history of the car bomb).
Staying with the importance of the auto industry. Are US military vehicles now/again/at last made only from parts made in the US? Iirc the Abrams tank uses a lot of originally European parts (but those could be US-produced on licence and not imported).

*and from there to the customers all over the world.

Sebastian,
What policy do you think "effectively subsidizes the movement of capital and jobs out of the country"?

The one I started off talking about, tax laws. I admit that I'm just parroting political talking points, tho, b/c I haven't studied the tax code to see if Kerry, Edwards, et al. are telling the truth that the code favors a switch from American production to foreign production. If they're lying, then I'm wrong.

Good point re how hard it is to undo a subsidy/tafiff/embargo. Still, is everyone else doing this trade thing wrong and only we are right? That's a good theory when we're doing better than everyone else, but not when we're sinking and they're rising. IIUC, you're arguing that protectionism is so inflexible that it's always worse than free trade. So, how do other countries manage? And is there no policy that would help over the long term (e.g., the change in tax code alluded to above)? But for specifics, I'll have to beg someone else to carry the ball, I don't know enough.

Romney's idiot shtick?
spend a few days or weeks working with Mormon, male, professional and you will no longer be surprised by Romney's act.

"spend a few days or weeks working with Mormon, male, professional and you will no longer be surprised by Romney's act."

Imagine substituting for "Mormon" the word "Jew" or "Catholic" or "Muslim" or "Baptist" or....

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