Home > Economics, Election 2012 > A “Tepid” Recovery

A “Tepid” Recovery

March 20th, 2012

That’s Romney’s new line. Apparently he can’t pretend that a recovery isn’t happening–it is, however slowly, with job growth doing well enough and likely to continue until election day. Romney would lose if he said the economy was bad and yet people kept on getting hired. And it’s possible that his polling indicated that people still remember that Bush got us into all this, every effort of conservatives to blame Obama notwithstanding. If he tried to claim that Obama was the guy who caused the recession, a few simple charts would dispel that claim pretty fast, and again Romney would look the fool.

So now the strategy is to say that, OK, Obama may not have caused the recession, and OK, he may be overseeing a recovery–but it’s not a good enough recovery!

One problem: Republicans are more to blame for that than Obama. Obama may not have proposed the perfect stimulus, but he proposed something a lot better than what Republicans shaved it down to. And while Obama caved to Republicans far too quickly and often, that only belies the point that Republicans were driving us in the opposite direction. And when you think back over the past three years, you see Obama proposing various job and economic initiatives, while Republicans offered nothing. Their only “jobs” proposal was to do away with laws preventing corporations from polluting us half to death. If that’s too hard to express, then all Obama has to do is play the video of Republicans saying that their chief priority was to make Obama fail.

Romney is also trying to argue that “bureaucrats are insinuating themselves into every corner of the economy,” and regulators “are multiplying like the proverbial rabbits.” He also said that “this economy’s struggling because our government is too big, too intrusive, too invasive of our economic freedoms.” Which sounds nice and all, but is rather abstract–and Obama can react by showing that he has cut government jobs (more than a half million), even more than Reagan did. Kind of hard to argue Obama is for big government when he’s pushing to merge agencies and shrink government. And if Romney wants to argue that even with fewer government jobs, Obama is being too regulatory, All Obama has to do is point out that less regulation is a big part of what has caused a lot of the pain we’ve been suffering over the past several years.

Which leaves Romney with little else to say except, “I would have done a better job.” At which point, all Obama has to do is hold up Romney’s editorial about letting Detroit go bankrupt, and he doesn’t even have to hint at Bain Capital, people will remember–oh yeah, Romney’s the guy who likes to fire people. Really, Romney would be reduced to saying that Republicans in Congress won’t be so destructively obstructionist under a Republican president, which is a bit too much like a bully saying that if you pay him protection money, his boys will stop beating you up.

After that, all Romney has left is lies. A strategy he’s probably best at, and has really never left.

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  1. stevetv
    March 23rd, 2012 at 06:41 | #1

    The GOP has no one to blame but themselves. Their plan was to nail Obama more on his economic policies that on his foreign policies, so… live by the strategy, die by the strategy.

    PS: I wouldn’t vote for Romney if I lived to be a hundred years old. And I’m with you nearly all the way on this one. So please, please, please don’t write a post about the overheated etch-a-sketch gaffe. I don’t want to be put in a position to defend him, even if it means defending him from the evil Gingrich and Santorum campaigns. Please? :)

  2. Troy
    March 23rd, 2012 at 12:51 | #2

    “A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth.”

    But what I find oddest about Romney is him yesterday flat-out lying about the gaffe, saying his advisor was just referring to rejiggering the campaigning organization and not the message itself.

    For the Republicans, it’s bullshit all the way down.

    And how could you feel compelled to defend Romney against charges that he’s a ‘perfectly lubricated’ political weathervane (Huntsman’s words)?

    Now, I believe he’d do a good job as the front man for the conservatives who want to continue the campaign of destroying my country that they’d been working on 1995-2006, but, again, I don’t see why you’d want to defend that, either.

  3. stevetv
    March 23rd, 2012 at 13:53 | #3

    Well no, I don’t want to defend Romney per se. Let me correct that right away. But the aide or advisor or whatever that poor schmuck is, I feel for him because I don’t believe he meant to say what everyone’s accusing him of saying. Maybe I’m nuts (or maybe I’m brilliant), but “rejiggering the campaign” is pretty much what I got from it as well. I read the transcript and I watched the entire interview – not just the 1 minute clip but all the questions that came before. And before the dreaded question was asked, they were talking about the differences in tenor between a primary campaign and a general election campaign, and how things were contentious between Romney and McCain during ’08 primary, but then Romney helped out McCain’s campaign during the general election. And it was in that context and in that frame of mind that the poor schmuck answered him. The words themselves are very non-specific so that anyone can insert their own interpretationa in them. I mean, think of it this way: would any candidate’s advisor really be so stupid, so dumb, so phenomenally incompetant and moronic as to blatantly say outright “My candidate is going to change his positions in a manner of months, and we rely upon the good people’s amnesia to forget about it”? Even if he was a Republican? I don’t. So that’s why I have my doubts.

    But that’s not to say I feel sorry for Romney. He wouldn’t be in this mess now if he didn’t have a penchant for continually and transparently flipping and flopping in order to gain the approval of the voters. If he hadn’t looked so desperate, then this wouldn’t have been an issue. But after the non-gaffe gaffes of “I invented the internet” or “I was for it before I was against it” or Howard Dean’s primary-season scream (Oh no! How can he be presidential if he’s going to behave like that?!), I get very wary whenever these things come up. I ask myself, is it a true gaffe, or is it a media or oppo-campaign hype? Before I jump on the bandwagon, I like to make sure I have clarity. And if this is intentional obfuscation orchestrated by the Gingrich and Santorum campaigns – which I think it is – then I don’t want to appease them by doing their bidding, even if it means I’m all alone in my opinion.

    But there’s no way Romney’s campaign is going to get out of this. These things find a way to take over the narrative, whether they’re true or not, and in the first flush of media passion, no one is going to accept any alternative explanations, so I’ll stop here.

  4. Troy
    March 23rd, 2012 at 15:20 | #4

    Question: “Is there a concern that the pressure from Santorum and Gingrich might force the governor to tack so far to the right it would hurt him with moderate voters in the general election?”

    Aide: “Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch a Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again. But I will say, if you look at the exit polling data in Illinois, you’ll see that Mitt Romney is broadly acceptable to most of the factions in the party.”

    I mean, think of it this way: would any candidate’s advisor really be so stupid, so dumb, so phenomenally incompetant and moronic as to blatantly say outright “My candidate is going to change his positions in a manner of months, and we rely upon the good people’s amnesia to forget about it”? Even if he was a Republican? I don’t. So that’s why I have my doubts.

    Special pleading, got it. Now, of course the campaign message certainly will change once Romney has to stop pandering to the nutball right that votes in primaries. That’s understandable, but not what Romney said to “clarify” the situation:

    “I can tell you this, when the campaign moves to becoming a general election campaign, the nature of the campaign itself in terms of staff, funding, the states we’d go to will be different than today, obviously,” said Romney. “It’s a much larger campaign fundraising numbers are very different, we now work with the Republican National Committee instead of apart from any committee of that nature. So organizationally a general election campaign takes on a different profile.”

    That’s not what his aide was talking about. Romney was lying. For me, the cover-up is worse than the crime.

    if he didn’t have a penchant for continually and transparently flipping and flopping in order to gain the approval of the voters.

    Well, if you’re a politician, this is how you get elected, in an honest election at least.

    Romney could not have won Massachusetts in 2002 without figuring out what 44.95% of the electorate wanted to hear.

  5. stevetv
    March 23rd, 2012 at 23:59 | #5

    Ooo-kay…. I had not heard Romney’s response. If that’s what he said in response, and if that’s really what he thinks passes as clarification, then that is pathetic. The most charitable thing I can say is that he and his advisors simply aren’t on the same page. What I took away from the poor schmuck’s comment was more of an abstract concept, about how the tenor of campaigns change once the primary ends and what was formerly rancorous is now harmonious, etc. You need to transcribe the exchange about McCain to see the context. But Romney sounds desperate.

  6. Troy
    March 24th, 2012 at 01:49 | #6

    What the aide wanted to say was entirely innocuous, and correct, that there will be totally different messaging once they get through the gauntlet that is the primary process.

    But there wasn’t any more context to this. The aide was talking about changing from the messaging that was necessary to appeal to extremist whacknoodles to running a messaging campaign focused on the muddled middle that Romney will need to get to 270.

    Let’s face it — a person on the fence between Romney, Obama, or not voting at all is a pretty pathetic individual.

    The difference between the etch-a-sketch attack and “Gore invented the internet” or that Dean screamed in an insane way at his rally is that Romney has a record being a moderate Republican for the past 10 years, supporting things like mandatory health insurance with state-paid subsidies, abortion rights, AGW, things that have been made anathema in the new Republican rolling clownshow.

    All that former history was bullshitted away by the Romney machine, now Romney is supposed to be “severely conservative”. When there’s probably not a single issue that Romney hasn’t flipped on since 2002:


    it’s hard not extending his aide’s description of what Romney’s campaign is going to do in the general to what Romney himself has undergone in the past.

    But part of Romney’s bullshit bubble is that he’s a principled conservative. Maybe that explains how his aide could say something so honest, yet damaging.

  7. Tim Kane
    March 24th, 2012 at 03:56 | #7

    “We can do better.”

    In the 2000 election Vice Presidential debates, after 8 years of unprecedented economic prosperity, after eight years of mostly peace, including the resolution of the Balkan mess, with the nation at perhaps its peak post Kennedy prestige, perhaps the highest pinnacle of any country in history, or at least close to that of the U.S. at the end of World War II, after elimination of the government deficit, after eight spectacular years of democratic administration, that is all Dick Cheney had to say to beat Joe Lieberman in the debate.

    I’m not sure how to counter this, I leave that to the pros.

    We all know what happened. They did worse. Perhaps a video montage of before and after is all that’s needed.

  8. Troy
    March 24th, 2012 at 05:59 | #8

    I’m not sure how to counter this


    is a single chart of what happened.

    This graph is government + nonfinancial business debt / wages.

    It is the systemic leverage of the real economy.

    You can see the Kennedy and LBJ gave Nixon a rather decent set-up, which reversed in the 1970s as the baby boom hit their 20s and started earning and borrowing money, accelerating inflation and increasing systemic debt relative to wages.

    The Fed tried to arrest this in the 1970s and early 1980s, but gave up and let Reagan’s budgets and the baby boom’s borrowings explode the leverage from 3X to 4X.

    Then the early 1990s recession came and the “Bond Vigilantes” brought a measure of conservatism again, and systemic leverage was held in check at 4X.

    Then the “MBA President” was installed and the looting of the country began in earnest.

    “You know, Paul, Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.” plus letting the Free Market fairy loose in the mortgage sector created an immense asset bubble and pushed several trillion dollars of spendable money directly into the middle class, 2003-2007.

    This all pushed systemic leverage from 4X to ~6X, where it has remained since we came out of the recession in 2009 (the private sector is deleveraging and the Federal government is borrowing and spending like crazy to compensate):


    Man, did the Republicans simply destroy my country 1995-2006. I really don’t understand how any Republican with a conscience can even live with themselves.

    Frankly, I’m beginning to think again that Japan’s row to hoe this century is more doable than the US’s. The Fukushima damage/cleanup and tsunami rebuilding are an immense hit to Japan’s wealth position — on the order of the waste we’ve committed in the two wars — but other than that I think Japan’s setup is more favorable than ours, even demographically. The US has 80 million boomers, and we’ve made $30,000/yr promises to each of them. That math simply doesn’t work.

  9. Troy
    March 27th, 2012 at 07:48 | #9

    Hey Luis, you intend to still be around in 2050, right?

    People say Japan’s population crisis is going to be horrible this decade, but I just don’t see it.

    If you eyeball this graph:


    you can see that the absolute number of old people in Japan is not going to get much larger than now, somewhere around +750,000 by 2050 compared to 2010.

    What’s odd though is that the number of YOUNG people is going to fall by just about that same margin, -750,000.

    So on a support basis, Japan is going to be able to shift resources from supporting the young to supporting the old this century.

    The US, on the other hand, is going to have around 50 MILLION more old people by 2050, plus another 10 million young people to take care of too.

    With its negative population growth, Japan is going to have to make do with more per-capita this century, while the US is going to have to make do with less, much less.

    This single statistical discovery I made today has essentially cemented the idea that I’m going to come back to Japan (if not Tokyo) this decade.

    I don’t know how things are going to go at all from now, but I’m pretty sure that Japan’s demographics are much more favorable than the US’s.

    Finance-wise, things are pretty opaque. Japan’s national finances certainly look screwed up, but the bottom line is that Japan is still running a trade surplus while I think the US is just spiraling down into being a charity case with its massive trade deficit.

  10. Troy
    March 27th, 2012 at 08:10 | #10

    LOL, I’m off a bit on the above. That graph is in 10-million people units, not millions.

    So it’s more like +7.5M seniors and -7.5M young people by 2050.

    +7.5M is going to be a rise of 25% from now, still not that catastrophic in terms of expansion (+~0.5%/yr for 50 years).

    While the US’s old population is going to more than double (almost triple), and its youth population is going to rise by 30% by 2050.

    +7.5M seniors in Japan is going to mean a lot of jobs for Japanese health care workers though (but only about half the demand for teachers).

    +50M seniors in the US is going to be an immense demand for health care jobs. Kinda scary really. Medicare tax is going to have to be 10% of wages or something.

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