Saturday, March 08, 2008

McCain Behind the 8 Ball?

The Politico reports that having secured his party's nomination while the Democrats continue to fight over theirs, John McCain is in big trouble:

Unlike the Republicans, the Democrats do know who they are running against. The Democratic National Committee is already firing out faxes attacking McCain and the party’s outside allies are already putting the finishing touches on their attack ads.

When not picking on each other, Obama and Clinton are also sending rockets McCain’s way.

That incoming fire could be particularly threatening to McCain for several reasons.

First, Clinton and Obama have very strong incentives to go after him. If either can convince their own primary voters that they have the best shot at beating him in the general election, the odds of winning the primary go up.

Their barbs and criticisms carry extra power, as well, these days because they are picked up by the national press corps still tracking the Democratic contest — rather than McCain’s quiet, internal reorganization at his Virginia headquarters.

Add to that, McCain can’t do much to defend himself in the short term because he ended the primary pretty much the way Kerry did four years ago: flat broke...

The explosive fundraising strength shown by both Democratic candidates shows no sign of abating, which means the victor will turn to the general election phase of the race with a presumably unified and enormous list of potential givers, notes Anthony Corrado, an expert on campaign finance.

OK, this is all true. But would it somehow be better if one of the two Democrats had already clinched the nomination? Then he or she would be unifying the party, expanding an already sizable cash advantage, and focusing fire on a bankrupt and under-staffed McCain. I suppose then McCain would have the advantage of additional media attention to both his reorganizing and his attacks, but is it remotely conceivable that would be a better situation for him?

Cummings points to this piece which lays out the challenges for Democrats.

Obama’s failure to win Ohio and Texas and lock down the nomination — combined with Clinton’s newly defensible decision to press on despite a deficit in delegates — virtually guarantees Democrats a draining contest that will give Republicans a months-long head-start on the general election.

It will heighten racial, ethnic, gender, and class divisions already on stark display, raise awkward questions about the legitimacy of the nominating process, and inflict potentially lasting wounds on the eventual winner...

Clinton advisers say Obama was also hurt by media attention to his murky connections to Tony Rezko, a former Obama fundraiser now on trial in Chicago on corruption charges. The Clinton campaign endlessly prodded reporters to insist that the Obama campaign provide answers to the many mysteries about the relationship.

This success will embolden Clinton for more of the same in Pennsylvania.

Obama, in turn, will step up his attacks on her appeal with independents and swing voters, her judgment in backing the Iraq War, and her attachment to "old politics” of the 1990s.

Add to that the fact that both Democrats will be spending boatloads of money to desrtoy each other, rather than stockpiling it. Is there any doubt that McCain would be far worse off if the Democratic nomination was settled?

Friday, March 07, 2008

Educating Obama on NAFTA

Philip Levy explains why Obama is so far off on NAFTA. He also tackles one of the basic misunderstandings about trade agreements -- that they have an effect on employment.

If we want to find the true consequences of NAFTA, we need to disentangle this mess of events. We could be guided by the wisdom of economic theory, but it says, loud and clear, that trade agreements have no impact on overall employment. Trade substitutes better jobs for worse jobs, but leaves the job total unchanged.

This is the type of answer that drives politicians berserk. Economic policies are loved or loathed by the public on the basis of how many jobs they create. How can trade policies not affect overall employment?

The number of jobs in an economy is set by the size of the work force, the health of the labor markets, and macroeconomic fluctuations. Trade can certainly create new jobs with export opportunities or cheaper inputs. It can also destroy jobs when firms succumb to import competition. Lots of job creation and destruction occurs every year in the U.S. economy. In an average year, 17 million jobs are created and 15 million are destroyed, with a net job creation of 2 million. When net job creation matches growth in the labor force, the unemployment rate stays constant.

He explains in greater detail why Obama's claim of 1 million jobs lost does not hold water -- because unemployment has been so low that the Fed would have taken steps to slow economic growth:

What of Obama’s claim that NAFTA cost the United States 1 million jobs? Imagine this were right. Then, without NAFTA we would have had 1 million more jobs. In the year 2000, this would have made the unemployment rate just under 3.3 percent, rather than the 4 percent we actually enjoyed. But Federal Reserve governors would have been in a panic long before we got down to that level and would have raised interest rates to slow the economy. They would have known they had gone far enough when unemployment increased to a level they were comfortable with – the same as with NAFTA.

Then what happened to those US manufacturing jobs? Simple: they continued to migrate to lower-cost locations -- as they had been doing, and as they will do even if NAFTA were to be repealed:

But what about the factory workers in Ohio? Are they just imagining those lost jobs? Of course not. Manufacturing employment in the United States did hit a peak and then begin a steady decline. The problem is that the peak was in 1979, 15 years before NAFTA came into force. The long-term decline of American manufacturing jobs has much more to do with technological change than with trade. We’re producing more stuff with fewer workers.

An excellent summary of an issues that will never be discussed honestly in a presidential campaign.

Friday Funny

If you've ever read this blog, you must have some feel for economics. With that in mind, 'stand up economist' Yorum Bauman translates Greg Mankiw.

Hat Tip: Paul

What's the Product?

There's an extraordinary and memorable new commercial out today, but what's it for? Ford trucks? The Superman sequel? A Ken Burns special? The reimagining of 'Greatest American Hero?' Take a look at the screen caps below, and see if you can figure it out:

The correct answer is 'none of the above.' They're all from John McCain's new webad. And I have to say, I certainly wasn't ready for something quite this... edgy.

Guess the Party: Texas Edition

The Mayor of Austin, Texas has apologized for choking a man at a 2006 party:

Austin mayor Will Wynn has apologized for his 2006 assault of a man at a South By Southwest party.

In a news conference Thursday morning, Wynn said "Two years ago I let a stranger pushed my buttons and lost my cool."

The mayor also said that in his anger he said stupid and insulting things.

The Mayor denies that he was drunk at the time -- saying he has an anger problem, not a drinking problem.

What party was the Mayor? It's not in the first line, or first paragraph, or even in the whole article. It's not here, or here, or here, either. In fact, I couldn't find it in any of these articles.

A cynic might conclude it's because Wynn is a Democrat. And if you did, Wikipedia says you're right.

Check out Jammie Wearing Fool for Guess That Party!, New York edition.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Bonds' Home Run Ball Headed to Cooperstown

But not the way he would have wanted:

Barry Bonds' 756th home run ball, adorned with an asterisk, could be on display at the Hall of Fame by Opening Day.

Jeff Idelson, the Hall's vice president for communications and education, said fashion designer Marc Ecko still has the ball he purchased in an online auction for $752,000. Ecko conducted an Internet poll on how to dispose of the ball. People voted to send it to Cooperstown affixed with an asterisk. The other choices were sending it to Cooperstown as is or blasting it into space.

Couldn't happen to a nicer guy -- even if Roger Clemens and others have pushed Bonds off the national stage.

The Funniest Thing I've Ever Seen?

Quite possibly: the Battle of Gettysburg, as shown in Lego, and as told by seventh grade boys. Make sure to hang through for the Matrix effects:

If you like it, be sure to see how the battle ends.

Hat Tip: Norlos

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Wednesday Funny

The Star Wars title track as done by Saul Bass:

If you're like me, you've never heard of him either. But you'll certainly recognize the style from movies like 'It's a Mad, Mad World.'

Hat Tip: Jonathan Last

Weather Channel Founder: Al Gore Should be Sued

John Coleman is the founder of the Weather Channel, and he's clearly not part of the 'scientific consensus' on global warming. He said yesterday that Al Gore should be sued for perpetrating a 'fraud:'

You can read much more of Coleman's work on global warming here.

Huckabee's Odd Source of Pride

Mike Huckabee has left the building, but his last number was intended to go over like Ronald Reagan, circa 1976:

“Look at where I won delegates,” Huckabee said. “John McCain won a lot of delegates in states that are not factors [for Republicans] in November: New York, New Jersey, California, Connecticut. They are not going to settle the election. I won states that are quite red. I won in states where Republicans had better win or there is no chance of a Republican becoming president.” (McCain, it should be pointed out, also won the very red state of South Carolina, as well as the important swing state of Florida.)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't the 'quite red' states likely to remain in the Republican column in the Fall? I had thought the greater desire was for a candidate who could win the base and reach out to the middle, rather than nail down a narrow portion of the base.