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The Reformicons

Thomas B. Edsall has an interesting piece in the New York Times on the “Republican Discovery of the Poor,” the embrace of economic populism, and the promotion of reforms, including changes to the tax code. Edsall understands the potential challenge to Democrats as Republicans “plan to bring the fight to the Democrats on their own turf.”

None of this is good news for Hillary Clinton. As Edsall concludes:

The obligation to counter the Republicans falls on Hillary Clinton. Her supporters are aware that she must navigate between the party’s competing constituencies while simultaneously demonstrating that she is not beholden to the Democratic special interest group network. If the 2016 election becomes a Clinton-Bush contest (or Clinton versus someone else who is committed to reformicon principles), its outcome will be determined by the ability of each candidate to surmount the same hurdle, but from opposite directions. How do you speak for the economically insecure without offending the very secure?

Edsall may not fully appreciate the longstanding disdain for corporate welfare and tax expenditures among libertarian elements of the GOP. What he presents as strategic calculations on the part of some Republicans may be more correctly understood as a longstanding commitment among some factions of the GOP. Whether this will constitute a threat to the Democratic candidate will depend on whether the reformist elements can survive the primaries.

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The Big Chill

Despite candidate Obama’s promises of greater openness and transparency, the last few years have not been good ones with respect to freedom of the press. As Al Hunt observes: “The Obama administration has pursued more journalists than other administrations, secretly looking at phone records and credit card transactions and surreptitiously tracking their movements.”

A new Pew survey reveals that the administration’s policies may have a chilling effect:

About two-thirds of investigative journalists surveyed (64%) believe that the U.S. government has probably collected data about their phone calls, emails or online communications, and eight-in-ten believe that being a journalist increases the likelihood that their data will be collected. Those who report on national security, foreign affairs or the federal government are particularly likely to believe the government has already collected data about their electronic communications (71% say this is the case)

Although only 14 percent say that concerns over government surveillance have kept them from pursuing a story, it has forced 49 percent to change the way they store or share documents.

Following the terrorist attack in Paris, President Obama proclaimed: “Free expression and a free press are core values they are universal values, principles that can be attacked but never eradicated.” Let’s hope he is correct.

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Vaccinate This

Interest in childhood vaccinations has risen in the past few weeks, with the growing number of cases of measles. As Christopher Ingraham (Washington Post) notes: “Public opinion polling shows that vaccination attitudes don’t differ much by party affiliation. Or by income, or even education. But there is one important demographic factor: age.”

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Rand Paul has run into some difficulties in the past few days when responding to questions regarding vaccinations. Perhaps his position is more complicated than can be captured in a sound byte. Alternatively, the ambiguity might be a calculated response to the beliefs of a key demographic that Paul has been courting.

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Catalonia will hold a de facto independence referendum through regional elections on September 27, 2015. This one will have “real” effect, unlike the 9N, because the Catalan independence parties would form a unity government and set up the institutions of an independent state, ultimately declaring independence at a date yet to be announced.

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Happy New Year!

I’d like to wish all Pileus readers a very happy 2015. The last three years, we have had a tradition of making predictions for the upcoming year and reviewing those of the past year. This year, I haven’t had time to come up with predictions for 2015, but here’s a look back at those for 2014:

Oklahoma will win its case (carry over from last year).

This is the Halbig case, where I have predicted for 2 years a defeat for the Obama Administration. This one is still wending its way through the courts, but one district court has ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.

U.S. real GDP growth will top 3% in 2014.

Final numbers are not in, but so far this one is looking good. Real GDP rose 5% in the third quarter of 2014 after an anemic start to the year. This was a pretty bold prediction given how poor economic growth had been from 2008 to 2013.

Obama’s net approval rating will be higher on election day 2014 than it is now (-11.3).

Bzzt. According to RealClearPolitics, election day job approval for Obama was…-11.3.

Republicans will pick up a few seats in both the House and Senate, but not quite enough to take back the Senate.

Half-right. The GOP did pick up seats in both houses, but took the Senate easily. Basically, I thought economic growth would pick up faster in 2014, boosting Obama’s JA and cutting Democratic Senate losses. I wasn’t quite right about the timing. Today, Obama’s JA stands at only -9, which might have been enough to give the Democrats a couple more Senate wins.

Dems will retain control of the executive council and the governorship in New Hampshire, but the GOP will retain the Senate and take back the House.

Got 3 out 4. The GOP took the executive council too.

The Scottish independence referendum will fail by about 10 percentage points.

Virtually spot on. The referendum actually lost by about 10.6 percentage points.

Catalonia will hold an informal “public consultation” with multiple options, in which “independence” will win a plurality and not a majority. Without a strong mandate for any particular alternative, political wrangling will continue indefinitely.

This one was pretty good, but for some reason I hadn’t counted on a boycott by the anti-independence side. Catalonia did hold an informal public consultation with multiple options, but independence won about 80% of the vote because of the boycott. Depending on how you calculate the electorate, the pro-independence side won 35-38% of the eligible voters, more than the other options (yes to statehood, no independence and no to both statehood and independence). Political wrangling has continued.

There will be no successful deal to roll back agricultural trade barriers in the Doha Round.

Correct but easy.

I’m gonna score it 5.25 out of 7 correct, with one still out.

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First Good Quote of 2015

And it is Thomas Piketty:

“I do not think it is the government’s role to decide who is honorable.”

On his refusal to accept the Legion d’honneur (h/t Marginal Revolution).

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Midweek Links

Here are a few interesting links to help get you over hump day.

Thomas Edsall (NY Times) on the impact of Obamacare on the Democratic Party. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) attributed the difficulties faced by Democrats to the strategic error of passing the Affordable Care Act immediately rather that addressing the economic struggles of the working and middle classes. Edsall has a lengthy essay that reviews both the reaction (best quote from Nancy Pelosi: “We come here to do a job, not keep a job.”) and the merits of Schumer’s argument. The conclusion:

the Democratic plan for victory by demographics could implode, which would make the case for a full scale re-evaluation of its strategies and policies glaringly obvious. Whatever you think of Senator Schumer, you begin to understand why he spoke out as forcefully as he did.

(more…)

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