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Who elects these clowns?

According to a fresh Quinnipiac Poll, President Obama's approval rating continues a small, slow recovery from its former depths, but at 44 percent approval and 49 percent disapproval, it remains below water.

On the other hand, these numbers are a ringing endorsement compared to the (dis)approval ratings of both party caucuses in Congress.

Voters disapprove of Democrats in Congress by 30 percent approve and 61 percent disapprove score, but even that looks good compared to a negative 22-69 percent for Republicans in Congress.

Also in the poll, voters favored the tentative agreement with Iran over its nuclear program, but aren't confident that it will succeed, favor diplomacy over war as a way to restrain Iran and disapprove of the letter to Iran signed by most Senate Republicans, but favor subjecting the agreement to congressional approval.

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Comments (58)

Congress

My own operating theory is that at least in some cases, we elect certain people to Congress as a way of getting them to leave the state.

It must be a slow news day...

Who pays for these polls? Who believes these polls? And what difference does it now make?

What difference does it now make?

Did you read the last paragraph? Yes, I would say the fact that the public generally approves of diplomacy with Iran over war is significant.

Wikipedia

@Ron, the answers to your questions can be found by reviewing the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute page on Wikipedia.

Know you hate the results Ron

But it speaks volumes about the present session in Congress. LOL

The problem is

that people dislike Congress -as an institution- (since it's the institution that actually takes actions that can be objected to), but like their local congerspersons who can usually find things to take credit for while distancing themselves from locally unpopular actions.

So...
Polls are paid for both by political candidates and by news media.
There's some confirmation bias involved, but polls are usually a more reliable source of information than sitting in the local coffee shop or convening a focus group. Flawed, but still the best predictor available.
And with primary season upon us, they will be one factor determining who runs for office, as well as what positions these candidates take and stress.

What's instructive

about the Quinnipiac Poll is that self-described independents agree with the self-described republicans on 21 of the 25 questions.

Since I don't monitor these things, I have no idea whether that trend is new or not, but since independents decide elections, that phenomenon may prove to be pivotal.

Strange

So 63% of Americans think that Iran nuclear program is a major threat and 62% are not confident that Obama’s agreement would prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapon and yet 58% support this agreement… So in other words, about 20% support an agreement that they think will fail to prevent a major threat… What sense does it make?

Of course, the questions are always political. For example, when it asked about agreement, instead of just leaving it at that, the question tried to describe it and in the process played with the facts a little bit: it said “…for Iran restricting its nuclear program…” instead of saying “for Iran PROMISING TO RESTRICT its nuclear program” which is a big difference.

On the other hand, it asked people if they support the war or negotiated deal but it did not ask if they supported THIS negotiated deal – huge differentiation.

More Interesting

I think Paul B's comment would be interesting to follow up on. It would be interesting to know the approval rating of each congressional member.

Do people dislike Congress, yet love their local representatives? Or do their results all look like Obama's or worse?

Approval rates

If you want to check the real polls, look at the election results. In our system, we don't vote for Congress, so whatever the polling results for Congress as a whole might be, they are of secondary importance if that.

"So 63% of Americans think that Iran nuclear program is a major threat and 62% are not confident that Obama’s agreement would prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapon and yet 58% support this agreement"

My own view is that agreements in themselves do not prevent stuff from happening, but that this agreement makes it less likely that Iran will get nuclear weapons. Really, I think it's hard to dispute that, and I am not sure anyone does. Opposition is grounded in other issues. But this does demonstrate a problem in polling, in that it's very hard to get meaningful answers to complex questions. And what you don't get by asking complex questions, is complex answers, however appropriate they might be.

Good points!

The election reality is that most incumbents get re-elected (at one time the number was about 95%).
People vote for people that they're familiar with (unless they vote against them).
Incumbency has a huge visibility advantage.

Congress

A really basic reason few representatives lose reelection is that districts are ideologically gerrrymandered. Relatively few voters even know who their congressman is.

Send in the clowns

There is a widespread myth out there not totally refuted by typical political reporters, that it matters who your legislator is. The idea is that you should vote for the the guy who is more competent,, or who nicer guy. This is, of course, nonsense. What's the point of competence, if it only enables the guy you elect to work more effectively against your interests? What's the advantage of having a congressman who is a nice guy, if he nicely and very sincerely wants to take away your health insurance?

I suppose I would prefer my elected representative not to be a clown. I have been fortunate in the fact that the candidates I have worked for, with the possible exception of Franken, haven't been clowns. But given a choice between a clown who works on behalf of my interests, and an incredibly effective, incredibly serious guy, who works against them, why shouldn't I choose the clown every time?

That explains everything

Better to have a senator we can laugh at than one who won't give you free stuff, is that it?

Free stuff

I have never understood that line of thinking. Obamacare. for example isn't about getting stuff for free. It's about paying for stuff that would otherwise be given away. Currently, we have one party in the legislature that seems to believe that roads build themselves for free, and inflation in our schools doesn't have to be paid for. That waiters and waitresses should get their rewards in heaven and not in the form of a living wage paid by their employers.

Look, I understand right wing economics. It's true, wages are a drag on the economy. Money paid to working people is money diverted from investing in America's future. Paying people in exchange for the labor the perform does make America less competitive in the global market place, and it is a significant factor in why the Mitt Romney's have fewer vacation homes than they might like. I get it. I really do. But like it or not, But the hard and cruel reality is that working people, very selfishly perhaps, will not work for free, at least not in America., Perhaps because of inadequacies of economic education in public schools, working people, or at least a fair number of them, are impervious to the truth that life would be even better than it is, for a few of us, at least, if they worked for free or at the very least, a greatly reduced cost.

Free Stuff

Tax Payers and citizens were already paying for healthcare for the needy in many ways. Obamacare was about taking money from the majority and wealthy and giving it to the lower middle class folks who were unwilling or unable to buy health insurance.

All those healthcare insurance subsidies certainly are free stuff for those who receive them. And the money is coming from other tax payers, health insurance purchasers and people who buy medical devices.

Remember the easiest ways to raise wages and benefits in America... Consumers choose to insist on buying high US content goods and services, and we deport all illegal immigrants ASAP. Neither of these seem very popular here.

Clowns

And you know, before we decry the cult of clowns, maybe we should pause for a moment and consider the amount of damage the very serious people have done and are capable of doing. The people who came very near to destroying our economy in the Bush years, weren't clowns. They were a highly competent, extremely capable, the best and the brightest in Halberstam's words who very seriously and very soberly and in a very single minded way, brought our country close to catastrophe, in their very successful, it should be noted pursuit of their own self interest. Really, wouldn't we be far better off today, if they had been clowns?

Defaulters

I don't know if I would say that people who took out bigger mortgages than they could afford and then defaulted on them were that bright.

Though there were a bunch of bright home owners who defaulted when they got upside down in their mortgages. Maybe their poor character indicates that they are clowns.

I don't know if I would say

I don't know if I would say that people who took out bigger mortgages than they could afford and then defaulted on them were that bright.

People who take out mortgages aren't bright. I know when I took out mine, when all the paper flashed by, all the signing of documents I didn't read, I felt distinctly stupid. The system doesn't depend on borrowers to be smart, what it does depend on them being is creditworthy, and that's really for the lenders to determine.

In the case of the financial crisis, very smart, very un-clownish system created a system which both obscured risk, but was also designed to make sure that the risk that was created was misrepresented. The every day borrower had no part at all in creating that system; all he did is take out a mortgage which was then manipulated in a process with which he had nothing to do, by many others. My own mortgage which I have always paid on time and on full, many very well have become part of one of the fraudulent instruments that defaulted and that nearly brought down our economy. Was that my fault?

No

No, you apparently didn't choose to over leverage yourself in pursuit of the "American Dream", and/or you chose to keep making your payments even if the house was worth less than your mortgage.

If everyone had done these 2 simple common sense and ethical things, the problem would not have occurred or at least not with such severity.

By the way, most of the paperwork at a mortgage signing is there because the government requires it to protect the customer.

Over leveraging

I certainly was part of a system that became over leveraged. And more importantly, I became part of a system that was designed to misrepresent and conceal risk. Now as it happens, I didn't misrepresent or conceal risk myself, at least not in any meaningful way. However, that didn't matter. I still ended up footing the bill for concealment and misrepresentation of others. And is there something wrong with that? After all, that's how the market, in it's infinite wisdom, allocated the risk? Why should those who make decisions, bear the responsibility for the decisions if the market provides ways for them to thrust those risks onto others?

My View

You know my view on this. The government policies, irresponsible mortagees, irresponsible lenders and irresponsible investors all own equal shares of causing the meltdown. However others keep wanting to look for a villain in a Black hat.

By the way, everyone needs to deal with questions of character. Does one accept the responsibility and consequences of their choices, or does one try to push the negative consequences off on others? Their were both lenders and mortagees of poor character involved in this mess.

Remember my co-worker who upgraded to that dream home in 2008, got divorced in 2009 and then walked away from his under water mortgage in 2010 and left us with the bill. Choices, choices...

As one who didn't take out a mortgage

I was still aware of the extreme pressure that everyone pre-2008 came under to buy a house.

I have always been a renter, especially since, as a self-employed person, I have an irregular income. If I had to, I could find a cheaper place to live on 30 days' notice, and I was able to move across the country without worrying how to sell my previous residence.

However, between 2000 and 2008, there was relentless pressure to buy coming from all quarters. All the newspaper articles, magazine articles, and TV and radio financial gurus were telling people endlessly that anyone who rented was stupid. Several times a week, I received postcards from financing companies telling me that NOW was the time to buy, and that by not doing so, I was passing up a great opportunity. My friends were not immune to this pressure, and even those who had lost their jobs and had to sell recently purchased houses, getting very little equity out of the deal, kept showing me all sorts of allegedly wonderful plans for first-time buyers. There were even interest-only loans!

I resisted, and when it all came crashing, I blessed my ability with basic arithmetic, because I had figured out that between mortgage payments, condo association dues (I have zero interest in yard work), and property taxes, I could not afford to buy what I was able to obtain by renting.

But I do not blame the people who succumbed to relentless advertising and peer pressure. People succumb to advertising and peer pressure for all sorts of stupid things, such as Cabbage Patch Kids, so why not for something major like buying a house?

Incidentally, the federal governments measures were against red-lining. They did not force lenders to lend to people who lacked the ability to pay mortgage, and the worst offenders here were fly-by-night financing companies.

Though there were a bunch of

Though there were a bunch of bright home owners who defaulted when they got upside down in their mortgages. Maybe their poor character indicates that they are clowns.

Something lenders and insurers understand very well is the concept of "moral hazard". In this instance, lenders understand that they must construct their loans in such a way that walking away from a loan makes more sense than paying on it according to it's terms. That's why lenders insist on things like down payments or are unwilling to lend up to the full value of the collateral. But at some point, lenders got greedy. They figured out ways to shift the risk of loan default on someone else, more specifically, you and me. The result was, they could make more loans, and riskier loans, knowing that they had access to a market that allowed them to shift the risk of those decision onto someone else. That's one of the things markets do, allocate risks. So, in effect, banks were allowed to package your creditworthiness, you ability to sustain risk, and sell it to risky lenders. The banks benefited from this transaction in the form of more business and higher fees. How did you benefit from it? Were you even aware that your fiscal responsibility was theirs to sell?

Benefits

A ton of people benefitted from this beyond lenders and investors.

Millions of people got more home than they normally could or should afford, people in construction had jobs, people selling land got additional profits, home owner net worth surged, etc. Times were great until they weren't.

Policy

A ton of people benefitted from this beyond lenders and investors.

Sure, but what baffles people me is how much support those policies and the politicians who advocated from people who didn't benefit from them in the short term, and who were often the most severely hurt by them in the long term. And what is equally baffling to me, is how much support there is in the country for a return to those disastrous policies, again often from people who were most hurt by them.

Benefits

You know everyone was critical of the Titanic, but what people don't remember is that well over 700 of it's passengers made it to New York safely.

Upper decks

Mostly the rich who got off into the lifeboats quickly.

Clowns?

Mr. Foster, you may be right that this agreement makes it less likely that Iran gets nukes, reducing it, let’s say, from 90% to 85%. Is this good enough? The obvious fact, that no one is actually even arguing against, is that unless Iran stops wanting nukes, it will easily be able to get them, if not shortly then in 10 years. That is the main complaint of those opposing the agreement that its supporters want to ignore even though they can’t dispute the factual basis for opposition.

Now let’s talk about clowns. First, if you consistently see that the people you want to vote for because you all agree with the same point of view are clowns, maybe you should rethink your views. Second, are you trying to say that Bush and Cheney destroyed American economy and world credibility knowingly in their own self-interests? Don’t you think that this is a very strong statement and should be backed up with facts? I also wonder where you would put Hillary Clinton in pursuing her own interests vs. our interests.

And finally, free stuff. Roads do not build themselves so someone pays for them and that is exactly what Republicans are saying: before doing anything, let’s check who will be paying for that. Democrats, on the other hand, are saying let’s do things and someone will pay for that, preferably the wealthy because they have too much… And waiters do get their rewards from their employers in the way of wages; whether it is living or not is not determined by the employers but by people’s skills and market, just like Karl Marx said it should be. So people should not work for free; they should work for what their labor is worth.

you may be right that this

you may be right that this agreement makes it less likely that Iran gets nukes, reducing it, let’s say, from 90% to 85%. Is this good enough?

I really don't know. I do know that 85% is better than 90%. If we are to take your analysis as correct, it is clear that opponents of the agreement are taking the riskier path. I guess they, rather than we are the analogues to Chamberlain at Munich.

" Second, are you trying to say that Bush and Cheney destroyed American economy and world credibility knowingly in their own self-interests? "

These days, elections are contests between billionaires financing hundred million dollar campaigns in pursuit of their own interests. The reason why Jeb Bush, and to be fair, Hillary Clinton are serious candidates has little to do with their personal qualities and everything to do with their access to vast financial resources.

"Roads do not build themselves so someone pays for them and that is exactly what Republicans are saying: before doing anything, let’s check who will be paying for that. "

The going theory is that the people who use the roads should pay for them. And it's a pretty reasonable theory. The problem is that the people who are using the roads aren't paying enough to maintain them. The obvious solution is for them to pay more. But that clashes with Republican blanket opposition to tax increases. So what to do? The usual Republican solution is to resort to magic. First off, use creative accounting to pull money out of thin air, And when that proves impossible, create a jury rigged system which addresses the problem in the short term by taking money from people in ways that are both real and hard to track. Preference, in the Republican scheme of things, is given to schemes that shift the responsibility for decision making to other entities, so Republicans can go to their voters and say with very straighte faces, I am told, that the negative consequences of their decisions were someone else's fault. "We just took away the money", in effect we are told, "It's someone else who took away what the money paid for."

What is your choice?

Mr. Foster, will you prefer to fly on an airplane that has 90% risk of crashing or 85%? I would accept neither and will demand a normal one or will not fly. And will you please clarify your logic in regards to who resembles Chamberlain more – I have to admit that I did not get it.

Again, you are correct that elections have become a contest of money but how does it prove that Bush and Cheney destroyed America for their own interests? Again, I do not see logical connection here.

I do not know about others but I think that the roads shall be paid for by taxing those who drive on them i.e. increased gas tax; that is the only logical approach. However, I do not see many Democrats suggesting that either. Instead they want to take money away from the wealthy who already pay the lion’s share of taxes which is a typical Democrats’ solution for everything.

Turnpikes and Shunpikes

were the typical mode of financing major roads before WWII.
Eisenhower started the interstate system that we relay on today for national defense purposes (the Germans demonstrated the military advantages of a good road system in WWII).
The publicly supported interstate system has driven our economy far better than the earlier private system that you seem to be suggesting we return to.

will you prefer to fly on an

will you prefer to fly on an airplane that has 90% risk of crashing or 85%?

85%

I would accept neither and will demand a normal one or will not fly.

Your decision not to fly, doesn't affect the crashing percentage you hypothesize.

"Bush and Cheney destroyed America for their own interests?"

I don't know that their destructive policies were in their own interest. Maybe, they weren't. They were in the interests of their backers.

And back to the subject at hand...

Why the low approval ratings? Simple: The Republicans have decided that they will gladly accept low ratings (negative 22-69 percent) in trade for depressing the President's ratings. I guarantee that if the Republicans decided tomorrow to give a little of the bi-partisan compromise the majority of the American people want they would be above 50% in less than 6 months. Of course this will also cause the President to rise proportionally and he would be above 60%. And we can't have that in the Tea Party skewed Republican party.

Imagine, cooperative solutions to immigration, social security, taxes and a strong majority approving of the actions of their elected officials and the direction the country is headed. Might that also be a trigger to near unprecedented economic growth and opportunity? Solving many of our problems in the process like debt and deficits, and funds for infrastructure through the good old" rising tide lifting all boats?"

Many of our problems are eminently solvable, the primary problem is the inability of "these clowns" to do what's right for the country over what's right for their party.

All clowns

Mr. Foster, I honestly do not believe that you would set a foot on a plane that would most likely crash – no smart person would. And my (and 99.99999% of others’) decision not to fly will affect the plane manufacturers who would make planes that would not crash.

“They [Bush people] were a highly competent, extremely capable, the best and the brightest in Halberstam's words who very seriously and very soberly and in a very single minded way, brought our country close to catastrophe, in their very successful, it should be noted pursuit of their own self interest” – that is what you said and now you are backing away. OK, now please prove to me that this was done in the interests of their backers (and I doubt you mean the people of the United States of America who supported their decision to invade Iraq).

Mr. Brandon, if you remember, some of the rich were the ones who stepped away from boats to let children and women (any of them, regardless of the class they traveled) to get in.

Mr. Blaise, can it be that it is Obama who accepted low rating to sink Republican rating? I mean everything is relative… And why do you think you know what is right for our country? For example, immigration reform is needed – will Obama sign a law that bans illegal immigrants from ever obtaining citizenship? We all need to remember that Obama is also one of those clowns…

The noble rich

There may have been a few rich men who sacrificed themselves to let women and children escape (mostly their own wives, children and mistresses), but I think that you're going more by the movie than by history. Most of the survivors were rich.
Poor women and children in steerage never got near the life boats, so it didn't matter what the rich men did.

Sheesh...

Mr. Gutman, are you actually suggesting that Obama has strategically decided that his legacy will be that Republicans in congress had a really lousy approval rating during his term of office? All Presidents are, at their core, driven by a desire for a "monument on the mall legacy". If you disagree, provide the list of past Presidents who wanted to be known as failures. I do not know what is always right, and you do not know what is always right. What is right or best is negotiating to a reasoned compromise, putting that problem behind us and moving on to the next one. The Senate approved immigration plan represented that spirit of compromise. The plan died in the Republican controlled house because of their refusal to compromise. Many Republicans members supported the Senate compromise; but, the House Republican leaders allowed Tea Party absolutists to kill it rather than pass it with a strong majority of Democratic and Republican votes.

I honestly do not believe

I honestly do not believe that you would set a foot on a plane that would most likely crash – no smart person would.

Your plane is riskier than mine, according to the terms of your analogy. Yet you seem to be willing to fly in it.

I certainly don't back away from my comments about the Bush administration. It's combination of disastrous foreign and domestic policies surely makes it the worst presidential administration in my life time and possibly in America history. That something that borders on objective fact. But just as certainly, the people who backed the Bush administration made huge amounts of money from both the domestic and foreign disasters. And they are investing even larger amounts of money to make Jeb Bush president.

Please explain

Mr. Brandon, I have not watched the movie – I just read historical books and yes, the rich people did that; and it was not their fault that most third class passengers didn’t make it to the life boats so your contempt for the rich is misdirected.

You also didn’t read my post carefully – I said that “the roads shall be paid for by taxing those who drive on them i.e. increased gas tax” meaning that, in my mind, they should NOT be privately financed as you assumed I suggested - while I actually said the opposite.

Mr. Foster, please explain why my plan is riskier – you keep making statement with no justification and no explanation when asked. Also, you implied in one of your posts that Bush and Cheney did bad things intentionally for their own gain which totally contradicts what you are saying now – i.e. it was people who backed Bush and Cheney who benefited. But even that is totally without merit – please provide some facts for that. And I am not even talking about questionability of calling Bush’s the worst administration – if not for Carter, we would not have had any problems in Iran (and Obama’s failing everywhere in the world is just plain unique – unless you consider Syria, Libya, Yemen, Russia, etc. successes).

Mr. Blaise, no, I am suggesting that Obama doesn’t care about his rating at the moment – and that is what we were talking about; his legacy is another matter – he doesn’t think that low ranking will affect his legacy… As for compromise, what did Democrats compromise in the Senate immigration plan? I didn’t notice anything related to illegal immigration.

I did not

disparage the rich (much less show contempt for them) the fact that you interpreted by statement this was says as much about your predispositions as it does about mine.
I simply made an observation about who it was who survived the Titanic.

The road issue deals with the question of whether transportation should be regarded as a public good, or whether the cost should be born by those who use it most or profit from using it most (two different questions).
If we want the support of roads to be born by those who benefit from them (and do you benefit if you don't own a car, but buy goods at a supermarket delivered by trucks?), we can approximate this either by charging directly for the use by setting up toll booths or scanners, or less directly through a tax linked to road use, such as a fuel tax (I assume that you would include diesel oil, and eventually batteries). In terms of economics there's not a huge difference. The important factor is the linkage between use and financing.

please explain why my plan is

please explain why my plan is riskier

Because under the status quo, Iran is successfully developing nuclear weapons. The plan makes that more difficult. It's sort of like if, at Munich, Hitler had agreed to inspections and troop reductions, instead of securing a piece of paper which ensured the continuation of the balance of power in the region which was in his favor.

Cheney and Bush certainly did bad things, and they did them intentionally, bur I don't think they were bad people with bad motives. They were simply remarkably incompetent political leaders. I don't think they were corrupt, personally, actually, but I think they were functioning parts in a deeply corrupt system. It's as if our lawyers and our judges have crafted a way, not to bribe individuals to bribe the system. I think this is the distinction the Supreme Court is making.

As for Carter comparisons, he had to deal with the economic aftermath of the Vietnam War, which was difficult but ultimately successful. He had to deal with out of control inflation he inherited from his predecessor, and the policies that were implemented worked, allowing for the modest recovery of the Reagan years. As a president, I would rate him slightly above average. Unlike with the Bush administration, the economy did not nearly collapse under his watch. Unlike with the Bush administration, we did not enter int a series of destablizing wars for reasons which later turned out to false. Future generations of historians will look back on the first decade of the 21st century and the fact that the American people somehow elected George Bush to the presidency twice, and will say, with a tone of amazement in their prose, and ask, "What were they thinking of?" A question they will ask again, if for some reason, the American people make the decision to return to those disastrous policies in 2016.

please explain why my plan is

please explain why my plan is riskier – you keep making statement with no justification and no explanation when asked.

I don't know that you have plan other than a continuation of the status quo under which Iran's efforts to obtain nuclear weapons remain largely unimpeded.

"you implied in one of your posts that Bush and Cheney did bad things intentionally for their own gain which totally contradicts what you are saying now – i.e. it was people who backed Bush and Cheney who benefited."

Bush and Cheney did things intentionally which turned out badly. I tend not to think of them as bad people so much as I think of them as massively incompetent people. Their backers benefited enormously from the Bush administration. They were a corrupting influence on the American political system, but that doesn't necessarily mean that Bush and Cheney were corrupt. I don't think they were, actually.

Certainly Bush was a far worse president than Carter, who played a terrible hand dealt to him by his predecessor fairly well. Bush played a wonderful had dealt to him by his predecessor extremely badly.

Hisory

Mr. Brandon, why did you even bring it up that rich survived Titanic in greater numbers? And no toll booths – that is inefficient and detrimental to surrounding communities; gas/electricity tax is the only way. So roads are public goods AND are paid for by the users – no contradiction here.

Mr. Foster, I am afraid you don’t understand my plan which is press Iran for giving its nuclear program completely and quickly and if it’s not, use military force. It is like telling Hitler to give up all prohibited weapons and if he didn’t agree, use military force to remove him from power… No risk compared to nuclear armed Iran or WWII.

“They [Bush people] were a highly competent, extremely capable, the best and the brightest in Halberstam's words who very seriously and very soberly and in a very single minded way, brought our country close to catastrophe, in their very successful, it should be noted pursuit of their own self interest” – again this is your quote which is the opposite of saying that “Cheney and Bush certainly did bad things, and they did them intentionally, but I don't think they were bad people with bad motives. They were simply remarkably incompetent political leaders. I don't think they were corrupt, personally,” which is your latest quote. And again, what is “a deeply corrupt system” that they were a part of? And how did Bush and Cheney benefit – please provide examples?

Now to Carter. Inflation rate was 6.5% in 1977, when Carter became a President, and was 13.5% in 1980 http://www.usinflationcalculator.com/inflation/historical-inflation-rates/ so he did not inherit any inflation problem or bad economy and his policies did not work. And all he had to deal with was Iran crisis which he failed to address properly (as I said, if he did, we would not have had current Iran problem) while Bush had 9/11 after which he managed to keep economy afloat. So yes, Carter did not enter the war in the Middle East – when he could do it easily – and we ended up with the current mess (yes, it did start at that time). So American people were correct when they threw Carter out and re-elected Bush. They were wrong when they re-elected Obama..

Public goods

"Public good - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_good
Wikipedia
In economics, a public good is a good that is both non-excludable and non-rivalrous in that individuals cannot be effectively excluded from use and where use by one individual does not reduce availability to others."

A tax makes a good excludable, so it is not public.
Water, gas and electricity are not public goods since they require specific payment and may thus be excluded.
Police and fire protection are (at least in principle) public goods.

Whip Inflation Now

Mr. Gutman obviously never had the opportunity to proudly wear a Jerry Ford WIN button. Fortunately, we can provide a little insight into the tenor of the times:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whip_inflation_now

I am afraid you don’t

I am afraid you don’t understand my plan which is press Iran for giving its nuclear program completely and quickly and if it’s not, use military force.

Thanks for the clatrification. We can always go to war against Iran. Nothing in the agreement prevents that.

"Inflation rate was 6.5% in 1977, when Carter became a President, and was 13.5% in 1980 http://www.usinflationcalculator.com/inflation/historical-inflation-rates/ so he did not inherit any inflation problem or bad economy and his policies did not work."

The inflation rate Carter inherited was high and a reason President Ford was not reelected. I share Mr. Blaise's recollection of the WIN, the Whip Inflation Now, buttons. Inflation blipped up during the last two years of the Carter presidency, in part because of the energy crisis, but Fed high interest rate policies during the Carter years pretty much drained inflation from the economy at the cost of a recession which pretty much doomed Mr. Carter's chances for reelection.

As for what was happening in Iran, I do understand that there is this belief that military power is the solution to all problems. As I recall, there wasn't much contemporary support for waging a war that would keep in the Shah in power. In historical hindsight, retroactive support for fighting a war in Iran back then seems to have increased. But as we have learned recently, waging war in the middle east isn't much of a panacea for anything.

Historical facts

Mr. Blaise, I provided statistics and numbers so that WIN buttons point you made is irrelevant. By the way, this campaign was active in 1973-1975, in the beginning of Ford’s term; by the end of his term, inflation was under control, according to the numbers I referenced... and then Carter came.

Mr. Brandon, how do you think police and firefighting services are funded? Through taxes (and in some places through fines and direct payments to fire departments). Everything government provides is funded by taxes – that is how government gets money. And roads were funded by gas taxes from the very beginning I think which did not make them excludable since a Canadian who put gas in his car in Canada and therefore did not, strictly speaking, pay any taxes, can still use a road. Water and electricity, on the other hand, are paid directly on consumption basis to the utility company.

Mr. Foster, I mentioned it, too: going to war later will be much more costly considering new weapons Iran is acquiring. Inflation was 4.9% in December 1976 (relatively low for the 70’s) and started going up in January 1977 (when Carter became a president) and was going up through most of his presidency and still was 12.5% in December 1980 (but started going down right after Reagan became a president). Why are you denying straight facts?

And I did not mean that Carter had to start a war in Iran to support the Shah. All Carter had to do is give him moral support to deal with Khomeini swiftly and kill the Islamic revolution. But Carter practically withdrew all support for the Shah (he refused to sell non-lethal tear gas and rubber bullets to Iran)… and got want we have. So thank Carter (along with Nixon) for half the world’s problems. By the way, he still tries to give advice... and some people listen.

War

going to war later will be much more costly considering new weapons Iran is acquiring. Inflation was 4.9% in December 1976 (relatively low for the 70’s) and started going up in January 1977 (when Carter became a president) and was going up through most of his presidency and still was 12.5% in December 1980 (but started going down right after Reagan became a president). Why are you denying straight facts?

Relevant or not, inflation was a major problem in the Carter presidency, one that he inherited from from his predecessor's. The problem was made worse by the energy crisis in the last two years of administration. The Fed responded by raising interest rates, draining inflation from the economy, but also driving it into recession resulting in the election of Ronald Reagan.

Going to war again in the middle east and South Asia is always on option. We have done it a lot. But, so far, at least, it hasn't solved any of our problems.

Moral positions work with Iran where the Shah was concerned but don't work with the Ayatollahs? Let's just say I am doubtful.

Typical revisionist Carter history

Oh, the irony.

After the first oil shock in 1973, Nixon signed the Emergency Petroleum Allocation Act into law in November of that year, giving the government power to control prices, production, etc of domestic crude oil.

Carter began to deregulate domestic controls in April 1979, as an effort spur domestic production to deal with the second oil shock brought on by the Iranian revolution. He and Congress later instituted a windfall profits tax on domestic crude production in 1980 as part of the original deal to deregulate prices.

What happened, naturally, as import supply was constrained, domestic prices for crude oil skyrocketed, ultimately leading to the January-July 1980 recession. The Fed rate had been used under Carter to try and put a lid on the inflation rates he inherited and increased even more in response to the huge increases in domestic oil prices that resulted from deregulation. Fed rates went from 4.6% when Carter assumed office to 10.0% by the time domestic crude began price deregulation. Peaked at 17.6% in April 1980, then slashed back to 9.0% by July as the recession ended.

Reagan could then run on bashing Carter about inflation (energy prices in particular) as well as hitting him about interest rates and the windfall profits tax.

Reagan did not inherit a recession, but since he didn't do anything meaningful to deal with oil prices, his Fed put rates up at over 19% to try to deal with inflation, and that all led to Reagan's major 16 month recession from July 1981 to November 1982.

The unemployment rate was unchanged under Carter (he inherited 7.5% and exited at 7.5%). That ballooned to nearly 11% by the tail end of the Reagan recession and was only a tenth of a percentage lower than what he inherited by October 1984, the month leading to his reelection.

The combination of domestic deregulation of oil prices and subsequent increased production, along with ambitious fuel economy standards started under Carter in 1978, led eventually to the global oil supply glut which devastated prices, ending with a nearly 50% drop in 1986. With the exception of the Gulf War under HW Bush, prices remained historically low all the way until late 1999 and early 2000.

So, to summarize, in response to the heavy hand of government regulation of a Republican, a Democrat instituted free market reforms. Prices went through the roof, causing big problems with the US economy. Another Republican came in and criticized him for the result of these free market reforms, beat him in the election, made the problem much worse, then took all the credit as the effects of the courageous policies set in place by Carter ended up kneecapping OPEC for 15 years, which fed the huge economic boom of the United States over that period. A Republican used government control to create a problem without dealing with the root cause, his successor also kicked it down the road, a Democrat dealt with it using a Republicanesque free-market approach, the short-term consequences of that approach led to his electoral defeat, his Republican successor tried to kick it down the road and made it worse, then said Republican took all the credit as supply increased and demand decreased as the result of the Democrat's policies.

And any notion that Carter could have had support for starting a major war in the Middle East so soon after Vietnam? Delusional.

Don't even get me started about Reagan and his dealings with Iran.

Mr. Foster, sure, inflation

Mr. Foster, sure, inflation was the major problem for Carter but he did not inherit it - 4.9% was not high. You may keep repeating that Carter got it from Ford, but the numbers are saying it differently. And the energy crisis was in 1979, when the inflation was already in double digits.

Going to war later when Iran has S-300 missiles will be much more difficult – is this what we want to get to? And yes, even if we forget about American interests, Iranians were better off under the Shah than under Khomeini…

Mr. Willemssen, again, what inflation rates did Carter inherit? 4.9% and brought it up to 14%? And if Carter’s “free market reforms” were so successful, how come other Democrats do not embrace this concept now? And I specifically said that Carter did not have to go to war: he should have helped the Shah with ammunition and withdrawing criticism. And even later it would have been enough to threaten Iran with a war…

Core inflation v refiner acquisition of domestic crude oil

January 1976 to January 1977
Core inflation: 6.08%
Refiner acquisition cost of domestic crude oil: 0.98%
Difference: -5.10%

January 1977 to March 1979 (last month before deregulation)
Core inflation: 7.81%
Refiner acquisition cost of domestic crude oil: 10.46%
Difference: +2.64%

March 1979 to January 1981
Core inflation: 11.63%
Refiner acquisition cost of domestic crude oil: 77.28%
Difference: +65.65%

What this means is that as the result of deregulation of domestic oil prices, those prices outpaced core inflation at a massive 25-fold rate differential compared to the period of Carter's presidency while the Nixon/Ford price regulations were still in effect.

People need to get their economic facts straight and why the numbers are what they are. One can't constantly trumpet market mechanisms then blame someone who implements them who happens to be "on the other team". That's just side-taking, not intellectual consistency. The Carter-era inflation numbers have to be contextualized within what he inherited from Nixon's response to the first oil shock.

It's much like we see Obama taking heat for implementing the ideas of the Heritage Foundation and Mitt Romney. Or much like trumpeting Reagan's economic performance and criticizing Obama's, even though the latter has an objectively superior record, particularly considering what each inherited.

More facts, please

Mr. Willemssen, are you trying to say that Carter’s overall inflation was the result of skyrocketing oil prices? Then you have to provide more facts – the numbers you provide do not prove causal connection. Also, please clarify what Obama’s ideas came from the Heritage Foundation… And talking about good situation that Reagan inherited is a circular logic since you have not proven that. I would also like to know in which regard Obama’s record is superior to anything… Let’s be more specific.

Utterly ludicrous

"are you trying to say that Carter’s overall inflation was the result of skyrocketing oil prices? Then you have to provide more facts – the numbers you provide do not prove causal connection"

Energy costs are a major component of CPI. That is why one often sees the term "core inflation", which means changes in the cost of all items, less food or energy. Energy prices can be extremely volatile, particularly after Carter exercised the glory of market mechanisms. It's nonsensical to talk of a "causal connection". I already separated out the two variables and showed the discrepancy, hence why inflation was so high under Carter. Anyone who thinks this is in dispute is off in the mental weeds. The data couldn't have been made any clearer.

Perhaps if you knew how to query BLS inflation data properly, and knew how inflation was actually measured, then you wouldn't make such an uninformed comment and request "more facts" when all the facts have already been presented.

With all that being the case, any easy proof of Obama performing better than Reagan relative to what he inherited will just fall on deaf ears, ears that are ideological, not objective.

Reagan v Obama - economic outcomes

Let's see how Reagan performed relative to how Obama at this point in the presidency, with what each inherited from their predecessor's final year as a baseline.

=====

Annualized change in private employment

Reagan
inherited: +0.1%
performed: +1.9%
difference: +1.8 percentage points

Obama
inherited: -3.9%
performed: +1.1%
difference: +5.1 percentage points

Win: Obama by a nearly 3:1 margin

---

Annualized change in government employment

Reagan
inherited: +1.0%
performed: +0.7%
difference: -0.3 percentage points

Obama
inherited: +0.9%
performed: -0.5%
difference: -1.4 percentage points

Win: Obama with a 4.5:1 margin, with special bonus for shrinking government employment, unlike government-growing Reagan

---

Inflation-adjusted S&P index

Reagan
inherited: +6.0%
performed: +9.1%
difference: +3.1 percentage points

Obama
inherited: -39.3%
performed: +14.3%
difference: +53.6 percentage points

Win: Obama, by a massive 17-fold margin

---

Federal deficit (ie, change in debt held by the public), share of GDP

Reagan
inherited: +2.5%
performed: +5.1%
difference: +2.6 percentage points, or 2-fold increase

Obama
inherited: +12.1%
performed: +4.6%
difference: -7.5 percentage points, or 62% decline

Win: Obama - huge decrease in the deficit, the opposite of his "fiscally responsible" counterpart Reagan

---

Per capita constant dollar GDP

Reagan
inherited: -1.2%
performed: +2.4%
difference: +3.6 percentage points

Obama
inherited: -3.7%
performed: +1.0%
difference: +4.7 percentage points

Win: Obama, by a ratio of 1.3:1

---

Unemployment rate

Reagan
inherited: +1.2 percentage points
performed: -0.9 percentage points
difference: 2.1 percentage points

Obama
inherited: +2.8 percentage points
performed: -2.3 percentage points
difference: 5.1 percentage points

Win: Obama, by 2 1/2 times

---

Inheritance of a recession

Reagan
Did not inherit. Triggered a 16-month recession from July 1981 to November 1982.

Obama
Inherited worst recession since the Great Depression, 12 to 13 months into an 18 month period. Has not triggered a recession during his presidency.

Win: Obama - rescued country from a deep recession, didn't cause one

QED

"Energy prices rose 45 percent from the first quarter of 1979 to the first quarter of 1980, enough to account for more than three-fourths of the total increase in inflation....

The dramatic deceleration in energy inflation, from 45 percent in 1979-80 to 16 percent from early 1980 to early 1981, was enough itself to provide the full three-point to deceleration in the CPI."

from "Inflation and Recession, 1979-82: Supply Shocks and Economic Policy", pp. 18-9, Kansas City Fed, June 1983

http://www.kansascityfed.org/publicat/econrev/econrevarchive/1983/2q83mi...

Ideology

Mr. Willemssen, of course, I can say that Reagan brought the Soviet Union on its knees while Carter created a monster of Iran (which you never addressed in full) and Obama created ISIS and let Russia take over Ukraine… But I will still point out that inflation was 9.28% in January 1979 vs. 5.22% in January 1977, an 80% jump before 1979 oil deregulation.

Also, you said that Obama used Heritage Foundation and Romney’s approach to economy meaning, I would say, something similar to Reagan’s… but then you are saying that Reagan was unsuccessful while Obama was successful… And you also said that Carter used free market approach and was successful in your eyes… again, compared to Reagan who was unsuccessful regardless of what he used (but I doubt he used anti-free market way). All that sounds so ideological…

Ideologues are immune to facts

It's a hard pill to swallow for some ideologues that their Reagan deity, objectively, has been seriously outperformed by Obama economically.

Prior assertion:
"With all that being the case, any easy proof of Obama performing better than Reagan relative to what he inherited will just fall on deaf ears, ears that are ideological, not objective."

Tuned out exactly as said.

"I know you are but what am I?" is an ineffective, if predictable, response - much easier than the hard work of being proficient in economics or history. And having the courage to be honest.

The core inflation rate went from 6.08% to 9.40% over the 26-month period from January 1977 to March 1979. This is a difference of 3.32 percentage points.

Core inflation data goes back to 1957, so we have 26-month period differential data from March 1960 through March 2015.

35 separate 26-month periods exceeded 3.32 percentage points. A Republican was president during 18 of those and a Democrat 17. All 17 under the Democrat were post-deregulation of domestic oil prices.

If a person cared to read the reference given earlier, it would explain something self-evident to anyone with knowledge of that period and how marcoeconomics work. Core inflation includes housing costs and housing costs are the largest component of CPI. The standard remedy for inflation is monetary - raising interest rates. Raising interest rates raises housing costs, hence is inflationary with respect to core CPI. Again, this is covered in the St. Louis Fed paper linked to earlier, but apparently this subject isn't of actual concern to ideologues wishing to pound the table with cliches about Carter, Reagan, and Obama.

True

Mr. Willemssen, you are right – it is hard for you to accept that Carter and Obama – your gods - were /are bad presidents however you put it. You ignored the issue of security as it is an obvious one and try to get back to fictional economic achievements still ignoring my pointing inconsistencies in your logic. I don’t know where you got your inflation data but here is mine - http://www.inflationdata.com/inflation/Inflation_Rate/HistoricalInflatio... - and in 24 months it jumped more than 4 points or almost 50%. And I am not going to analyze all the comparison between Obama and Reagan but I will point out that one cannot inherit percentage – just the number – so your numbers don’t mean anything and if we consider the current labor force participation rate (the lowest in a long time), unemployment will be twice as much as reported.