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The Republican Party’s Brand Problem

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What is a “brand”?

A “brand” is a product or service or organization which has values, qualities or traits deeply associated with it. It is the “identity” of a product, service or organization, and it is reinforced by “differentiators”: those things which set the brand apart from its competitors. When you buy Coke rather than the generic alternative (and typically pay far more in the process), you do so perhaps because you prefer Coke’s taste (a trait) or (more often) because Coke’s marketing efforts have associated with their product values you favor or relate to. When you buy Pepsi instead of Coke, maybe you like Pepsi’s taste, or maybe you identify with Pepsi’s efforts to position their product as “younger”. At root, however, “brand” is a function of trust: when you buy a Coke, you trust it will consistently deliver whatever it is you’ve come to expect. Whether you are in Hong Kong or London or San Francisco, when you order a hamburger at a McDonalds, you trust it will taste the same and deliver the same experience. Being true to the brand promise is of extreme importance: if the burger you ordered at any particular McDonalds was completely different than the burger at any other McDonalds, or if each can of Coke tasted differently, the brand would instantly become meaningless: the brand promise betrayed, there is no longer any reason for you to pick the brand over a competitor.

What does the idea of a “brand” mean in the context of the Republican Party? And how’s the health of the Republican Party’s “brand”?

The Republican Party likes to brand itself as the party of small government, fiscal prudence, a free market and liberty. Their brand promise is lower government spending, less governmental intrusion into the lives of Americans, safety and the ability to transact business with limited governmental constraints, and minimal direct governmental participation in the economy.

How has the GOP performed on its brand promise? Are the party’s differentiators meaningful to their customers, the Amercian electorate? The answers, in short, are: poorly and no.

Many voters today see little difference between the Republican and Democratic parties: independent voters are now the largest segment of the electorate, and the fastest growing. Republican George W Bush, of the ostensibly “small government” party, increased government spending substantially: the rate of non-defense discretionary spending growth during the first term of his Presidency was over 3,500% greater than it was under President Clinton’s first term, and over 230% higher than President Carter. This was in following his father’s footsteps: George HW Bush increased spending over 6,800% faster than President Reagan. When it comes to “small government” and fiscal prudence, the Republican Party has lost, entirely, any ability to differentiate from the Democrats: for the period 1988 – 2004, Bush 43 (a Republican) grew government spending the fastest, followed by Clinton’s (a Democrat) second term, then Bush 42 (a Republican), and finally Clinton’s (a Democrat) first term. Going back a bit farther, President Nixon increased spending at a rate five times faster than President Carter did. There is no difference between the parties, and this undermines the Republican brand significantly (it doesn’t damage the Democrats nearly as much, as their branding has not often made fiscal prudence a brand promise).

On the issue of liberty and freedom, there is likewise little to differentiate the party brands: President George W Bush substantially reduced individual freedom by way of (among other things) authorizing warrantless wiretaps of citizens of the United States and effectively eliminated habeus corpus protection; President Obama (among other things) granted retroactive immunity to the telecommunications companies who went along with these wiretaps, and subsequently extended his interpretation of a President’s powers to include the assissination of United States’ citizens without charge, trial or conviction. A Republican and a Democrat, with little to distinguish their stances on personal freedom and liberty.

In more recent times, the Republican party has also come to be the home of the “social conservatives”: that part of the electorate most pre-occupied with issues such as abortion, gay marriage and “Christian values”, and often identified as the “religious right”. This segment of the party has significantly diluted the Republican brand, and in focusing on “social conservative” issues, has dimished the core differentiators of the Republican brand we mentioned earlier: small government, fiscal prudence, a free market and liberty. And while 78% of those Republicans aged fifty-eight or older described themselves as “social conservatives”, 46% of Republicans aged eighteen to thirty-seven describe themselves as “social moderates”. The “social conservative” aspect of the Republican brand is a losing proposition for the party in the medium to long term.

The rapid growth and substantial number of independent voters is the consequence of the parties’ diluted brands: if Coke and Pepsi and the no-name brand all taste exactly the same and are the same price, what compelling reason beyond inertia is there to make a person pick Coke over Pepsi, or Pepsi over Coke, or either over the no-name brand?  This is where the GOP finds itself in 2012. And things are going to get much worse for the Republican Party establishment: the younger the voter, the less likely that voter is to be a member of the Republican Party. 37% of the party’s members are fifty-eight or older, and 24% are between forty-eight and fifty-seven, but only 14%-15% of members are between the ages of twenty-eight and forty-seven, and just 6% are between eighteen and twenty-seven. The party is aging, and new voters do not find the brand compelling.

The conventional thinking is that the Republican Party is for people who have stuff (which they don’t want the government to take away), and the Democratic Party is for people who don’t have stuff (and want the government to give them stuff), and as people get stuff, they shift to the Republican Party. But that thinking is deeply flawed: the current generation of voters aged eighteen to twenty-seven have stuff, and they’re not joining the Republican fold (in 2008, 58% of voters aged eighteen to twenty-nine were either Democrats or leaned Democrat, while only 33% of that age group were, or leaned, Republican, a downward trend that has continued uninterrupted since at least 1992, when Republicans had a 47% to 46% edge in this age group).

The Republican Party has repeatedly betrayed its brand promise, and the party no longer has the core differentiators it once did. As such, it does not have a meaningful sales pitch for new customers – those people reaching voting age. The party’s brand has become “New Coke”.

What can the Republican Party do to reverse this slide and rebuild the party’s brand? And are they doing it?

Almost all the candidates currently competing for the Republican Presidential nomination are running on a platform based not upon the core Republican brand, but on relatively recent changes to that brand, which coincide with the dilution of party support among new voters – the “New Coke” of the Republican Party: social conservatism, military interventionism and big government. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum is considered “conservative” because he is staunchly “pro-life” and wants to bomb Iran (while his history in office shows him indistinguishable from a Democrat when it comes to the “Classic Coke” version of the Republican Party: he voted in favor of increasing the debt ceiling, consistently voted in favor of earmarks, backed Arlen Spector in his run for Presidential nominee of the Republican Party (Spector, a pro-choice, pro-gay rights, anti-gun rights and pro-affirmative action candidate, subsequently switched sides, becoming a Democrat in 2009), does not believe United States citizens enjoy privacy protection under the Constitution, and believes the government should involve itself in private enterprise by picking certain sectors for special treatment (Mr Santorum would like to eliminate the corporate tax on manufacturers, and only manufacturers)). Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney implemented a government health care program while Governor, increased state spending by over 32% in four years and, in an effort to appeal to the “New Coke” Republican brand, switched from “pro-choice” to “pro-life”. Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House, believes the federal government should be responsible for finanically assisting citizens’ home purchases, has signed a “New Coke” document entitled a “Pledge of Fidelity” promising not to cheat on his current wife, and wants to remove more personal freedoms by strengthening the Patriot Act. Texas Governor Rick Perry, who increased spending over 82% in Texas, focuses on the “war on religion” the federal government is supposedly waging. These candidates all believe that “New Coke” is a winning formula, and they are doubling-down on it. And this lack of differentiation has resulted in a fractured field: no candidate received more than 25% of the vote in the Iowa caucuses.

The lone candidate seeking to rebrand the Republican Party, to bring back “Classic Coke”, is Texas Representative Ron Paul: he proposes cutting government spending by one trillion dollars in the first year, eliminating five federal departments, increasing personal liberties by doing away with things such as the Patriot Act and permitting states to decide issues such as gay marriage and abortion. Mr Paul’s foreign policy, which calls for non-interventionism and only Congressionally-authorized wars, is materially different from the Democrats and every other candidate. And that rebranding, that original formula, is resonating with customers: in the Iowa caucuses, 48% of caucus goers aged seventeen to twenty-nine voted for Mr Paul, as did 43% of independents. These are the very customers the Republican Party desperately needs in the years and decades ahead.

For those efforts to rebrand the Republican Party, Ron Paul has been alternately ignored or reviled. The Republican Party doggedly insists that “New Coke” is the winning formula, and any suggestions that “Classic Coke” should be reintroduced is met with open hostility. Mr Paul has been called “dangerous” and more recently “disgusting” by his fellow Republican, Rick Santorum. Mr Paul’s foreign policy is dismissed out of hand: a non-interventionist defense policy is not even permitted debate. But as we’ve seen already, independents are the largest share of the electorate, and they are demonstrating a genuine taste for “Classic Coke”. And in hypothetical match ups against President Obama, Mr Paul’s “Classic Coke” matches Mitt Romney’s chances for victory in a general election.

The Republican Party establishment ignores this erosion of its brand at its peril: with nearly twice as many young people leaning Democrat rather than Republican, and with independent voters the deciding factor in general elections, “New Coke” is a strategy for failure. The Republican Party’s brand is materially and demonstrably diluted, and the party is going to need to engage in a serious rebranding exercise, building meaningful differentiators and building trust with new customers. Those customers are waiting, and they seem to have a thirst for “Classic Coke”.

Written by westcoastsuccess

January 4, 2012 at 3:34 pm

Des Moines, Iowa GOP Debate Features Tears from Multiple Candidates…

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The November 19, 2011 debate between hopefuls for the Republican Presidential nomination at First Federated Church in Des Moines, Iowa was at least as noteworthy for the odd sight of multiple Presidential hopefuls breaking down in tears, and the absence of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, as it was for any answers elicited from the candidates. It often had the feel of a daytime talk show more than a serious debate, with multiple candidates choosing to bare their souls for the cameras. Religious themes were prevelant throughout the debate.

Rather than our usual candidate performance overview, for this article we’ll outline the themes covered, and then we’ll address how the candidates performed against our list of five things to look for:

The Crying

The waterworks began during the second hour, with former National Restaurant Association lobbyist Herman Cain, as he struggled to recall his battle with cancer, and paused for long stretches in attempts to collect himself. Mr Cain’s tale of his stage four cancer diagnosis, his will to battle through it and his ultimate triumph were moving, and set the tone for what followed.

And what followed sometimes felt like a contest between the candidates to one-up each other with stories of tragedy and heartache and battles fought and sometimes won. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum used an extraordinarily lengthy story about his youngest daughter’s life and death struggle to argue against government health care. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich did likewise with a dramatic story of a child who is a friend of his, and who suffered from numerous medical challenges, over which he ultimately triumphed, and also a tale of Mr Gingrich’s former feelings of “emptiness”. Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann told the story of her parents’ divorce and her family’s struggle to survive thereafter. The tears flowed, heart strings were pulled (in often rather calculated ways, a cynic might say). Only Texas Governor Rick Perry and Texas Representative Ron Paul kept things upbeat, in Perry’s case recounting his rise from humble beginnings in a very small town, and in Paul’s case stating that, while he has had some difficulties, the life he’s been blessed with makes those difficulties trivial (although Ron Paul later added that he hates seeing himself on television and had a promising athletic career cut short for medical reasons).

Whether inducing pity translates successfully into votes remains to be seen – some viewers no doubt feel it “humanizes” the candidates, while others may be more inclined to think, “Ya, we all have our problems”. In any case, it was odd, unexpected, sometimes touching and at other times painful to watch.

The Comedy

Rick Perry had perhaps the best lines of the evening, starting during his story about growing up in small town Texas (“I think there were about thirteen kids in my graduating class, and I’m happy to tell you I graduated in the top ten!”) and continuing with his quips referencing his “oops moment” (As Ron Paul discussed cutting the Education Department, Mr Perry added, “And energy too!”, referring to the department he was famously unable to recall during the Michigan debate. The moderator quipped, “Governor, is there a third Department you’d like to cut?”).

Another funny line came after Rick Santorum explained how he considered it a “miracle” that he won the race for Pennsylvania Senator and that God had put him there. The moderator responded with: “What message did God have for you when you lost the last race?”

Newt Gingrich, on the “Occupy Wall Street” protestors, said, “That is why you have to tell them: go get a job, right after you go have a bath”.

When health care came up, the moderator chimed in with: “If only Mitt Romney were here.” Herman Cain responded with, “Mitt who?”

The Religion

The debate was heavy with religious topics, with candidates asked to describe when they were “called by God” and asked to reveal their personal struggles in “this sanctuary” of the First Federated Church. The first question asked candidates to elaborate on their feelings about what the words “so help me God” in the Oath of Office of the President mean to them (notably, unlike Oaths of Office for the judiciary, military, Congress and others, this is not part of the Constitutionally prescribed oath, although it has been traditionally included by Presidents). However important distinctions emerged:

  • Rick Santorum declared Muslims must “modernize” their religion as it is “stuck in the seventh century”. It is unclear if Muslims are looking to Mr Santorum for guidance on reforming their belief system;
  • Newt Gingrich argued that the United States Constitution is predicated upon Judeo-Christian principles and that the “pursuit of happiness” mentioned in the United States Declaration of Independence in fact means “the pursuit of wisdom”, and further seemed to argue that “liberty” leads to “libertines”;
  • Michele Bachmann cited a law passed by Lyndon Johnson which prohibits preachers from discussing politics (the Internal Revenue Service, which is charged with enforcing that law, has been challenged repeatedly by churches);
  • Ron Paul made the point that (contrary to Mr Gingrich’s argument) “liberty” is not the same as being “libertine” and that “liberty” comes with the consequences of decisions;
  • Michele Bachmann stated that she has a “biblical world view” and that God “created government”, and that she would like to “see what he [God] has to say about it”;
  • Rick Santorum argued that “liberty” is not “what you want to do but what you ought to do”, in comportment with God’s law.
  • Newt Gingrich argued the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution gives Congress the right, with a simple majority of Congress, to declare life begins at conception. Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment (which is presumably what Mr Gingrich is referring to) deals with citizenship.

The Courts

Perhaps the most revealing opinions came on the topic of what to do with the Supreme Court in instances whereby the Court rules in a way which does not satisfy the candidate’s point of view. The issue arose in the context of both gay marriage and abortion. Newt Gingrich, rather shockingly, called for the government to remove the Court’s power to rule on the constitutionality of certain issues. Such a plan, of course, would have profound implications: a federal government no longer bound by the Constitution where it deems itself above the scrutiny of the court. Mr Gingrich no doubt views this in light of court interference with items he supports, but such a stance would have equal power under a different administration, which might pass laws antithetical to Mr Gingrich’s views, and Mr Gingrich would have no recourse whatsoever to challenge the validity of such a law. On this issue, Mr Gingrich seems to share the view point of Minority House Leader Nancy Pelosi, who appears to believe the government can pass any law, and is not constrained by the Constitution. It was a shocking revelation by Mr Gingrich.

Rick Perry reiterated his argument that the terms of Supreme Court Justices should be limited (the issue of the Constitutional Amendment this would require, and whether it would pass, did not arise).

Rick Santorum would like to abolish the Ninth Circuit Courts, which he stated after Newt Gingrich declared that he would abolish the court of Federal District Judge Fred Biery of San Antonio.

The Wars

Candidates fell into their now-predictable stances on war: Mr Santorum seemed, as usual, almost eager to go to war; Ms Bachmann lamented the lack of access by the government to waterboarding and other torture methods; Mr Gingrich trumpeted his “big-government Republican” world view; Dr Paul argued for the Congressional approval required for war, and then only in defense.

The Five Things We Suggested Viewers Look For

  1. Did Herman Cain have something to offer beyond “9-9-9”? Mr Cain continued to lack the confidence and charisma which he exudes (in buckets) when on the topic of his “9-9-9” tax plan. The debate did not showcase any new planks for Mr Cain to showcase his personality with.
  2. Will the surging Ron Paul solidify recent gains with a strong performance? Dr Paul’s performance was solid. He did nothing to “hit it out of the park” but also remained consistent throughout, and drew applause often. The most important distinction Ron Paul made probably came on the topic of whether government should attempt to force a particular cultural perspective on the populace: all the other candidates seemed to favor the government peddling cultural values; Ron Paul instead argued the government should not be in the business of enforcing culture. It’s an important distinction, because the other candidates argue that the “left” is forcing a cultural viewpoint, and argue not that it is not government’s place to do so, but rather that government should instead push a different cultural agenda.
  3. How will Newt Gingrich handle his recent surge in national polls? Mr Gingrich was more subdued and less combative than he usually is in these debates, and his points were well received by the crowd.
  4. Will Mitt Romney’s absence sway Iowa voters, where Mr Romney is in a dead heat? This remains to be seen, but in a caucus state, it’s hard to imagine Mr Romney’s absence won’t have an impact.
  5. Will any of the other candidates be able to suprise with a strong showing? Rick Santorum clearly savored the opportunity to get more speaking time, and got a good opportunity to show how his candidacy is different than the others. Viewership was particularly low for this debate, however (it was only streamed online and not broadcast on television – you can find it archived here), therefore it’s unclear if Mr Santorum’s increased air time will result in a bump in the polls in Iowa. Rick Perry, too, had his best debate to date, generally articulate and didn’t exhibit the “deer in the headlights” syndrome he has so commonly demonstrated in these debates.

An Ode to the Candidates…

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Since it’s Friday, a little levity is in order to prepare us for the weekend. So here, then, we present an Ode to the Candidates:

Little Ricky he don’t make no sense
Rotten grammar misplaced tense
Ran up the budget eighty percent
He’s part of Texas establishment

“Vote for Gore!” old Ricky said
Gotta wonder about that boy’s head!
“Illegals need to go to school!”
That Ricky’s such a tax and spend fool!

Little Mitt’s got a health care plan
For every woman child and man
But he don’t want you to have a choice
All slicked back hair and radio voice

Mitt says he’s a business man
But he’s just following daddy’s plan
From a family of politicians
Pampered lives oh so patrician

Mr Cain’s a fun pizza guy
He’s got a plan but it won’t fly
Put the tax in every store
Better load your wallet heading out the door!

Cause 9-9-9′s a catchy rhyme
But it’s 12-12-12 in no short time
Gotta love his delivery
But this ain’t pizza, can’t you see?

Dr Paul’s a Texan man
With a three year balanced budget plan
“The Constitution’s coming back!
End the Fed’s monetary attack!”

Cut a trillion in year one
But hold on folks, Mr Paul ain’t done
Ditch the Ed, Interior and HUD
Energy, Commerce and all the other crud.

Ms Bachmann’s got some solid points
Despite her time in all those tax lawyer joints
But her hero Reagan didn’t drink that tea
Raised taxes every year of his presidency

Think TEFRA was a good idea?
And massive spending every year?
Grow tax receipts by 8.2
Is that what Michele wants us to do?

Newt is full of bluster and bluff
And all the wonky policy stuff
Give him credit – he’s got good lines
But Newt my man you’ve had your time

“Personal mandate!” big Newt used to say
Until the tide went a different way
Now he’s peeking at Ron Paul’s lines
And damning the Fed – it New Newt times!

Thank you Sarah for sitting it out
Your spending in Alaska left us all in doubt
TV shows seem more your style
To stretch your fifteen minutes a mile

You really don’t belong in this ode
With “bridges to nowhere” and a dead end road
You’ve had your fun now keep on walking
There’s business at hand and the adults are talking

Rick Santorum gets just one verse
’cause “war war war” just makes things worse
Little Rick’s running out of cash
And that odd expression – I think he’s got a rash!

Huntsman – are you kidding me?
Stilted jokes ain’t comedy
Working for Obama has made you nuts
And where the heck are the budget cuts?

So which one’s going to take on Barrack
And put the country on a different track?
And send that man from whence he came
“Community organizing” seems more his game

’cause leadership ain’t his song to sing
Takes more than that “hopey changey” thing
One term it seems is more than enough
For “tax the rich!” and class warfare stuff

Guess we’ll see on that day in November
How many of his sins the people remember
“Spend! Spend! Spend!” is his rally cry
“Congress won’t do it – I can’t understand why!”

Should prove to be an interesting race
Keep making a mess or clean up the place?
Will forty-five get his four
And point forty-four to the exit door?

Ron Paul Releases “Plan to Restore America”; Promises Balanced Budget in Third Year of Presidency

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Dr. Ron Paul, one of the Republican Presidential nominee hopefuls, and currently averaging third place in recent polls (trailing Herman Cain and Mitt Romney), has released his economic plan, the “Plan to Restore America“.

The plan outlines significant changes to the United States federal government, and promises a balanced budget by Mr Paul’s third year in office, primarily by way of the elimination of the Department of Energy, the Department of Commerce, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Education and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as significant cuts to the Department of Defense and Medicaid. No additional tax sources are proposed.

What is, perhaps, most striking about Ron Paul’s plan isn’t the reduced role of the federal government, but rather the significant reductions in spending required to balance the budget. The US federal government’s deficit, which President George W. Bush gave birth to, and which President Obama nurtured into an accelerated adulthood, is truly astonishing, in both its size and the rapidity with which it grew during the Obama administration.

Here’s a look US federal revenues and expenditures over the past two administrations, as well as the impact of Dr. Paul’s plan:

 

 

In the absence of significant budgetary changes, the United States federal government is on a dire path indeed: over 40% of all federal government spending is done with borrowed money; over one in seven US workers works for government of one level or another (by comparison, in bankrupt Greece, that ratio is one in five), which is more than the number of people working in manufacturing and construction combined; at the time Social Security was founded, there were thirty workers paying for each one retiree, while today that ratio is three to one (and nearing two to one); medical costs continue to rise more quickly than inflation (this is significant, because close to 70% of all medical spending in the US is by government).

Ron Paul’s plan begins to make some of those difficult choices which are increasingly becoming unavoidable, and further has one big advantage over most other plans presented by the GOP Presidential hopefuls: an even-handed approach which doesn’t single out special interests or seek to carve out exceptions for favored groups (by contrast, the floundering Rick Santorum started his attack on Herman Cain’s “9-9-9” tax plan at the GOP debate in Las Vegas Tuesday by suggesting that the federal government is obligated to subsidize certain groups of people in order to produce children – one of his pet causes which he feels the government should change the rules for. Most of the candidate (with the notable exception of Herman Cain) favor continuing the type of patchwork the current 72,000 page tax code employs: an extraordinary number of special exceptions for certain favored groups).

It will be interesting to see how the media reacts to Mr Paul’s proposal, which makes choices which return government spending to a level supported by government revenues, without increasing the source or scope of those revenues.

 

Written by westcoastsuccess

October 19, 2011 at 11:51 am

Las Vegas GOP Presidential Nominees Debate: Perry Falters; Romney Steady; Paul Strong

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Tonight’s GOP debate in Las Vegas, Nevada, between hopefuls for the GOP Presidential nomination featured lots of fireworks, stumbles by some candidates (most notably Governor Rick Perry, but Newt Gingrich too) and some significant differences on policy positions. Here’s an overview of how the candidates fared:

Rick Perry

Texas Governor Rick Perry has had a rough time in prior debates, and has seen his standing in the polls plummet rather dramatically, from an early, substantial lead, to currently out of the top three. Mr Perry needed a strong performance in this debate.

He didn’t produce it. In fact, his performance was so poor, the Las Vegas crowd booed him on several occasions. Mr Perry, it seems, has decided to focus on two things: answer as many questions as possible by working in the term “energy independence” (regardless of whether energy in any way relates to the question at hand), and attempt to attack former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

On this second point, Mr Perry adopted a strange strategy: clearly weakened by revelations in prior debates that, as Governor of Texas, he instituted a program whereby illegal aliens are subsidized by the state for post-secondary education (an illegal alien studying in Texas pays less than a visiting student from, for example, California or Illinois, with up to $100,000 less being the figure commonly quoted by Mr Perry’s adversaries), Governor Perry decided to level an allegation against Mr Romney that Mr Romney had previously knowingly hired illegal aliens and continued to employ them after learning of their status. This was not only effectively swatted aside by Mr Romney (as he explained it, a company he hired to tend to his lawn maintenance happened to employ an illegal alien, and fired that individual after Mr Romney objected, but subsequently hired another illegal alien), it allowed Mr Romney to make a point about his own plan for an electronic system which would permit employers to identify the legal employability status of employees.

On multiple occasions, Governor Perry repeatedly interrupted Mr Romney during Mr Romney’s answers, so much so that the crowd began to boo. Mr Romney effectively put Mr Perry in his place by suggesting that, as President of the United States, he would have to occasionally listen to other people without interrupting. And jarringly, Rick Perry repeatedly referred to Herman Cain as “brother”, which he did not do to any of the white candidates.

Mr Perry also suggested withdrawing United States support for the United Nations in its entirety. And Rick Santorum accused Governor Perry of writing a letter to Congress on the day of the TARP vote urging Congress to act (Mr Perry’s rebuttal was that his letter urged them to do “something”, but not what they did).

Governor Perry had a very poor outing, and it’s hard to imagine a scenrio whereby he recaptures the lead in the polls, or comes anywhere close to the Republican nomination. In each debate, Mr Perry has seemed vastly out of his depth, and increasingly relies upon repeating that his state has created the most jobs (notably absent from his claims, and not mentioned by the other candidates, is the fact that an awful lot of those jobs were in the state government: Governor Perry has increased spending 81.94% since he took office, as we previously reported in our article, “Perry vs Romney: Both Big Spenders, History Shows…“). It will be interesting to see how long Mr Perry remains in the race, given how poorly he has been performing, both on stage and in the polls, and it’s further hard to envision Governor Perry beating even the weakened President Obama. Mr Perry’s confidence and charisma have vanished; unfortunately it does not appear that leaves him with much to trade on in this race.

Mitt Romney

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney had a generally steady night. Attacked early for his Massachusetts health care plan, and for prior suggestions that he considered such a program suitable for the entire country, Mr Romney fired back by proclaiming that the Massachusetts plan is right for the state but not right for the nation, and backed it up, as he has in the past, by pointing out that the citizens of Massachusetts favor his health care plan by a three to one margin. It’s an odd and difficult argument to make, because Mr Romney is essentially arguing that the merit of such a plan is a function of its scale: it’s okay at the state level but not okay (and, he claims, unconstitutional) at the federal level.

Governor Romney managed to very effectively silence Newt Gingrich by claiming Mr Romney’s plan took the idea for an individual mandate directly from Mr Gingrich. Mr Gingrich vehemently denied the charge, before admitting on a direct question from Mr Romney that he had indeed spoken out in favor of an individual mandate.

When Mr Perry attempted to cast Mr Romney as a “flip flopper”, Mr Romney responded by pointing out that Mr Perry previously chaired Al Gore’s Presidential bid against George W Bush.

Mr Romney’s strategy of avoiding specifics and masterfully directing many of his answers into, essentially, “This country needs jobs and I’ll give them to you!” played well: his style is so smooth that, unless listening closely, it’s easy to miss that he doesn’t actually say very much on any topic.

Ron Paul

Texas Representative Ron Paul had another strong showing: here is a candidate who doesn’t need to pause and calibrate his message into what a candidate is “supposed to say” – his positions are logically consistent (Governor Perry, on the other hand, appears as though he has had too many aides providing too many “positions” on too many topics, to the point at which they have overcome his ability to memorize his supposed positions).

Ron Paul scored with the audience when moderator Anderson Cooper listed off the federal departments Mr Paul would shut down: Housing and Urban Development, Education, Energy, etc. On the question of foreign aid, Dr Paul simply stated he would cut all foreign aid, and at one point had both Mitt Romney and Rick Perry telling the audience they agreed with Mr Paul. His message that foreign aid amounts to taking money from poor Americans and giving that money to rich people in poor countries resonated with the crowd, as did his message about bailouts, the economic bubbles and the inability of the federal government to “manage much of anything”.

On the issue of whether he is in favor of the federal government storing spent nuclear contamination in Nevada, Ron Paul suggested it is inappropriate for the federal government to forcibly dump the garbage of forty-nine states on one of the states, said he considers it a state issue, and mentioned that, at one point, he was one of three members of the House to vote against the measure, the other two being representatives of Nevada.

Perhaps the most striking contrast of the evening came between Rick Santorum and Ron Paul on the issue of cutting defense spending: Mr Santorum (clearly a hawk, who previously stated he would like to “go to war with China” but probably meant he would welcome a trade war with the Chinese) said he would not cut one penny of defense spending. Ron Paul, on the other hand, pointed out that the United States maintains bases in 150 foreign countries and that it was time to bring the troops home.

Herman Cain

Former Godfathers Pizza CEO, and Chairman of the Kentucky Federal Reserve, Herman Cain has seen his fortunes shoot skyward after strong prior debate performances. His “9-9-9” tax plan was a focus of much of the early part of the debate, as Mr Cain’s new found status as front runner in some polls served to increase the scrutiny of his proposals.

Criticism of his tax proposal centred on the sales tax portion of his 9-9-9 plan: a 9% sales tax on all retail sales. Michele Backmann, a former tax attorney, repeatedly referred to it as a value added tax (the difference between a sales tax and a value added tax is that, with a value added tax, each step a product goes through on its way to market is taxed on the difference between the input cost and the sale price – the “value added” is taxed), while Mr Cain explained it was not a value added tax. Mr Romney asked if this sales tax would apply in addition to state sales taxes, which Mr Cain attempted to deflect as comparing “apples to oranges”. Mitt Romney replied, “And I’ll have to get a bushel to hold all the apples and oranges”.

As a former central banker, Mr Cain argues that he was in favor of the bank (and other) bailouts, but not how they were applied. That’s a message that is unlikely to resonate with many Republicans (or independents, or Democrats, or anyone who isn’t a current or former banker or other of the “bailed out”).

Other candidates argued that it would never pass (Newt Gingrich), that the people will not accept a sales tax (Rick Santorum) and that it will inevitably rise (Ron Paul; Michele Backmann). Herman Cain, meanwhile, argued that it would eliminate all the invisible taxes while simplifying the tax code.

Moderator Coooper quoted a statement Mr Cain had previously made in which he suggested that if people weren’t employed and weren’t rich, they should blame themselves, which caused much of the audience to applaud. Mr Cain said he stood by the statement. On the question of the current “Occupy Wall Street” protests, Herman Cain suggested the protesters’ anger was misplaced, as the government was to blame for the financial downturn and not Wall Street. Ron Paul suggested Mr Cain was blaming the “victims”, in reference to the unemployed, while the government people in charge of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as well as Wall Street participants, had yet to be held accountable.

On issues not related to his tax plan, Mr Cain seemed less confident and more as though he had been coached, and his answers to issues such as defense and immigration were far less compelling than his answers on matters economic.

Michele Backmann

Senator Michele Backmann had a generally strong performance, leveling several effective attacks on other candidates. Her positions on foreign policy were particularly strongly articulated, attacking Iran for their nuclear program as well as the purported assassination plot against a Saudi dipomat on United States soil. Mrs Backmann also came out heavily in favor of continued financial aid to Israel, “our closest ally” (the question of foreign aid to Israel drew strong contrasts between Michele Backmann and Ron Paul: Mr Paul argued in favor of withdrawing all aid to Israel).

Towards the end of the debate, on a question about the federal government’s role in housing, in light of the high number of foreclosures, Mrs Backmann made what seemed like an odd appeal to the “mothers out there”, and seemed near tears. It came across as a blatant appeal to female voters, and further, did not seem to resonate with the audience in the way Mrs Backmann no doubt intended it to.

However, Michele Backmann is a strong debater, and continued to find ways to insert herself into the conversation.

Rick Santorum

Essentially out of money and consistently polling in the single digits, former Pennsylvania Governor Rick Santorum started the night with an appeal to family values, and carried that theme on later in the debate, suggesting that “liberty” is founded upon families (at which point Ron Paul interjected, stating “I don’t think liberty comes in bunches”).

Mr Santorum, who often seems visibly pained by anything less than full militaristic support from the other candidates, attempted to insert himself into the debate with a spirited attack on former Governor Romney, attacking Mr Romney’s Massachusetts health care plan. He also successfully attacked Rick Perry’s support of the TARP bailout (see above).

Toward the end, Mr Santorum pointed to his record of having won as Governor of Pennsylvania, a swing state, stating that, “If we win Pennsylvania, we win the election!”

Given his lacklustre financial support and poor showing in the polls, expect Mr Santorum to drop out of the race after Iowa, at the latest.

Rick Huntsman

Former Governor of Utah and Obama Chinese Ambassador Rick Huntsman did not participate in the debate, ostensibly in order to boycott Nevada (which has changed the date of its primary to January 14th, in violation of GOP rules), but more probably because his campaign is in severe financial difficulty. Expect Mr Huntsman to withdraw from the race soon – after New Hampshire at the latest.

Media’s Coverage of Ron Paul Takes Another Strange Turn: NY Times’ Strange RSS Feed…

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Representative Ron Paul, one of the Republican Presidential nominee hopefuls, continues to receive strange treatment by the media. Despite polling results consistently in the top three or four candidates, and often polling ahead of President Obama in hypothetical match ups with the President, Dr Paul is often but a footnote, at best, in mainstream media coverage of the nomination race, and more commonly simply not mentioned. We examined this in some detail in our article “Is Ron Paul Getting a Fair Shake in the Media? Watching the Watchers“, following Ron Paul’s narrow loss to Michele Backmann in the Iowa straw poll. Today, the New York Times got into the act, in a particularly odd way: the paper’s RSS feed pushed out a story with the title, “Romney, Perry and Cain Open Wide Financial Lead Over Field”.

The problem? The article’s title indicates a story about the recently released campaign fundraising figures for the past quarter, and states Herman Cain, along with Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, are far ahead of the other candidates. Except the title is flat out wrong: Mitt Romney and Rick Perry certainly raised considerable sums in the most recent quarter: $14 million and $17 million respectively. Herman Cain, however, raised just $2.8 million, $675,000 of which he personally loaned his campaign, meaning he actually raised $2.125 million. Ron Paul, on the other hand, raised four times more in campaign contributions: $8.2 million, and finished in third place among GOP Presidential hopefuls. In fact, Michele Backmann also raised more than Cain: her total for the reporting period was $3.9 million, or double Cain’s and half Paul’s. A factually correct title would read, “Romney, Perry and Paul Open Wide Financial Lead Over Field”.

What’s even stranger is that the linked article (the title of which is actually “Romney Beating Obama in a Fight for Wall St. Cash”) is not even really about what the RSS title and original headline purport it to be about: instead, the article is about the shift in donations by Wall Street firms, from previously strongly supporting Obama (who dominated by a country mile campaign contributions from these firms in 2008) to now supporting Romney, and makes no mention of Ron Paul at all, except for one sentence in the fourth final paragraph. The article spends 19 paragraphs discussing Wall Street political contributions before closing with nine paragraphs reporting the campaign contributions for the latest quarter (Herman Cain gets half a sentence).

Here are some interesting screen shots, starting with the RSS feed’s title:

And here’s the URL for the article, as seen in a browser address bar:

Here’s the actual article. Note the different title, versus the RSS feed’s title, as well as the title contained in the address bar:

Of course, the false title was picked up by innumerable other publications, blogs and web sites:

It seems the anti-Paul media bias has gone from largely ignoring Mr Paul to flat out mis-stating facts. Very strange indeed.

Written by westcoastsuccess

October 16, 2011 at 10:56 am

Perry vs Romney: Both Big Spenders, History Shows…

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As the media, and the Republican Party establishment, continue their attempt to make the contest for the 2012 GOP Presidential nominee a two person race between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, it is interesting to look at the fiscal records of these two candidates while they held office as Governors of Massachusetts and Texas, respectively. We’ll here look at a topic of great interest to the Tea Party set particularly, and Americans generally, in light of the current state of the United States federal government: given the US government now spends substantially more than it takes in (north of 40% of expenditures are made with borrowed money), how did these candidates fare on the issue of state spending while they were in charge?

The picture isn’t pretty:

  • While Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney increased spending substantially: when Mr Romney took office in 2003, state spending for that year totaled $26.27 billion. During his final year in office in 2007, state spending had ballooned to $34.69 billion. This represents more than a 32% increase in spending over a four year period;
  • Meanwhile, during his time in office as Texas Governor since 2000, Rick Perry increased state spending from $44.19 billion in 2000 to $80.40 billion in 2010, an astonishing 81.94% increase;
  • Keeping the time periods consistent, while Governor Romney was increasing Massachusetts’ spending by 32% between 2003 and 2007, Governor Perry increased Texas’ spending by 16.36% during that same period (from $59.05 billion in 2003 to $68.71 billion 2007).

Both of these candidates are running to be the Presidential candidate of the Republican Party, a party which ostensibly favors reduced government spending. That’s particularly the case for Tea Party supporters and libertarians, who favor a substantially reduced government role. Judging by their history, it is difficult to consider either of these candidates disciples of a “small government” philosophy: while in office they took a combined $85.32 billion in taxpayer-supported spending and turned it into $103.40 billion in spending.

Here’s a chart of Mr Perry’s and Mr Romney’s work:

What if we look at state spending as a function of state GDP? Here, Mr Perry fares significantly better than Mr Romney: Texas, under Mr Perry’s leadership, was unable to grow spending of taxpayer dollars as fast as their GDP was growing, whereas in Massachusetts, under Mr Romney, state GDP was unable to keep pace with Mr Romney’s spending of taypayer money. The share of state spending as a portion of GDP in Texas reduced from 7.14% to 6.03%, while Mr Romney increased state spending from 8.84% to 9.81% of all economic activity in the state (nearly one in ten dollars produced by economic activity is redistributed by the state government):

How does all this compare to the federal government during the same period? Federal expenditures as a percentage of GDP under George W. Bush decreased 4.58% between 2003 and 2007, from 8.77% to 8.37% (but by 2010 had risen 8.38% under President Obama, to 9.07%) :

Written by westcoastsuccess

September 26, 2011 at 9:22 am