U.S. economic growth slowed further in the second quarter as consumers cut back on spending and businesses curbed their investments, the government reported Friday.
The economy expanded at a sluggish annual rate of 1.5% in the April-June quarter, down from an upwardly revised 2% growth pace in the first quarter and a 4.1% increase in the final quarter of 2011.
The latest reading of the nation’s gross domestic product — the total value of goods and services produced — was slightly better than analysts’ expectations of a 1.3% gain.
Still, the deceleration confirmed that the economy has slipped into another spring stall. The loss of momentum raises the risks of more trouble ahead as Europe’s economic problems hurt American exports and manufacturing, and growing angst about the so-called fiscal cliff — looming tax increases and government spending cuts — threatens to further weaken consumption and hiring by businesses.
An economy growing at a 1.5% pace is consistent with a monthly growth of less than 100,000 new jobs, said Sung Won Sohn, an economist at Cal State Channel Islands. “That’s not enough to take care of new workers coming into the labor force, let alone rescue the unemployed,” he said.
Better than expected; worse than it’s been.
I can’t figure out why massive government spending hasn’t done the trick!
Because if he went to high school, Obama says let him go:
In a startling allegation, the president of the union representing Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers claimed illegal immigrants are “taking advantage” of a new directive allowing some undocumented residents who came to the U.S. as children to stay in the country. Union boss Chris Crane said the policy ends up allowing illegal immigrants to avoid detention without any proof — particularly so-called “dreamers,” or those illegal immigrants who would benefit under the “DREAM Act” proposal, which Congress has not passed but the administration has partially implemented.
“Prosecutorial discretion for dreamers is solely based on the individual’s claims. Our orders are if an alien says they went to high school, then let them go,” he said at a press conference with GOP senators. “Officers have been told that there is no burden for the alien to prove anything. … At this point we don’t even know why DHS has criteria at all, as there is no requirement or burden to prove anything on the part of the alien.
“We believe that significant numbers of people who are not dreamers are taking advantage of this practice to avoid arrest,” he said.
Crane cited one case in which, he said, an immigrant facing criminal charges was let go under the policy. Further, he complained that officers are “under threat of losing their jobs” if they defy the policy.
Illegals: don’t forget to vote for Obama! And remember: you don’t need ID!
Having just pointed out that Obama didn’t seem to propose new gun control legislation after Aurora, it’s incumbent on me to point that, well, he’s still not. But he’s trying to sound like he is:
Acknowledging sensitivity of the issue, he said Wednesday he believed that even gun owners would agree “that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of children.”
Very clever, Mr. President. You just made it sound like a situation that a) isn’t happening and b) will never happen is somehow a live issue. That’s like the NRA saying: “even gun control advocates would agree that guns should not be confiscated wholesale from every U.S. citizen, including members of the police and military.” Uh, yeah, we’d agree with that — but so what? Do we have laws allowing children to walk around with AK-47s that I’m unaware of somehow?
Maybe he’s talking about 24-year-old adults with AR-15s, like James Holmes. If so, that’s what he should say.
So what is Obama proposing, specifically?
He offered no specific proposals but referred to background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, fugitives and the mentally unbalanced. . Previous efforts to do the same have been thwarted by political opposition and the reluctance of elected officials who endorse the idea to take on the National Rifle Assn., among the nation’s most potent lobbying forces.
(That’s their extra period, by the way.)
So if I understand the L.A. Times, there are currently no “background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, fugitives and the mentally unbalanced” because “efforts to do the same have been thwarted” by the NRA and other gun nuts. I could have sworn we had such background checks already (18 U.S.C. 922(g)) but I’m not an expert on the matter and welcome comment from such experts. Is Obama talking about “gun show loopholes” even though Holmes didn’t buy his guns at a gun show?
How about a little clarity on this, L.A. Times? Maybe Obama isn’t specific because there is no law he could propose that would both a) prevent shootings like this and b) be popular and constitutional.
A country where adults can order AR-15s and there are background checks is different from a country with no background checks where children have “AK-47s.” Obama seems to be implying that we live in the latter country, and the L.A. Times is letting him get away with it.
It can be revealed this morning that, in a startling experiment that will be debated for years to come, the editors of the Los Angeles Times have temporarily ceded control of their web site and front page to staffers working directly for the re-election campaign of Barack Obama. According to insiders with knowledge of the plan, the pilot program, initially slated to last 24 hours, may be significantly expanded as the 2012 Presidential election approaches.
The staffers’ initial gambit is to take a standard pro-entrepreneurial speech by Mitt Romney and portray it as xenophobic and frightening. The Obama campaign intends to use the pages of the L.A. Times to suggest that Romney is invoking debunked “birther” claims, despite the complete lack of any reference to birthers in the actual words of Romney or anyone linked to him. The staffers’ article is a bold and daring move that is certain to grab attention due to its sheer audacity and shameless dishonesty. Whether readers will buy the hoax is another story.
Here’s how the Obama campaign staffers chose to portray Romney’s speech in their new position at the L.A. Times:
By Seema Mehta, Los Angeles Times
July 17, 2012, 8:06 p.m.
IRWIN, Pa. — In remarks that played on debunked assertions about President Obama’s birthplace, Mitt Romney on Tuesday said that the current administration resembled foreign governments and one of his chief surrogates said the president needed to “learn how to be an American.”
OK, Patterico here, to say: I’m just kidding. My post so far is a goof. Of course it’s not really true that actual Obama campaign officials have been entrusted with the news pages of the L.A. Times. It’s even worse than that! In a terrifying development, the paper remains under the control of the same cabal of leftist lunatics who have published this rag since before I first started lining bird cages with it in 1993.
To see just how far divorced from reality these nutcases are, let’s take a look at the proof of their frankly insane claim that Romney is appealing to birthers. This claim is based primarily on an assertion that Romney claimed yesterday that “the current administration resembled foreign governments.”
Well, the entire transcript of the speech is available in this post at Hot Air. First let’s get a flavor of what the speech sounded like in general. Again, it is a clear response to Obama’s “successful people didn’t get there on their own” remarks. Here is Mitt Romney:
The idea to say that Steve Jobs didn’t build Apple, that Henry Ford didn’t build Ford Motor, that Papa John didn’t build Papa John Pizza, that Ray Kroc didn’t build McDonald’s, that Bill Gates didn’t build Microsoft, you go on the list, that Joe and his colleagues didn’t build this enterprise, to say something like that is not just foolishness, it is insulting to every entrepreneur, every innovator in America and it’s wrong. [Applause]
. . . .
I’ve got to be honest, I don’t think anyone could have said what he said who had actually started a business or been in a business. And my own view is that what the President said was both startling and revealing. I find it extraordinary that a philosophy of that nature would be spoken by a President of the United States. It goes to something that I have spoken about from the beginning of the campaign. That this election is, to a great degree, about the soul of America.
OK, but didn’t he compare the Obama administration to “foreign” governments? Well, I searched for the word “foreign” in his remarks, and came up with these two passages, which I will place in their proper context:
You understand, of course, what’s going on. What he is saying is his justification for raising taxes higher and higher, because government needs more. What he is saying is his justification for Obamacare, which says that we need 2,300 pages of legislation to have government more intrusive in your life. What he is saying is his justification for a larger and larger government. This is very different, by the way, than the Democratic Party of Bill Clinton that said that the era of big-government was over, that reformed welfare. You heard that story by the way, he is trying to take work out of welfare requirement. It is changing the nature of America, changing the nature of what the Democrats have fought for, and Republicans have fought for. In the past, people of both parties understood that encouraging achievement, encouraging success, encouraging people to lift themselves as high as they can, encouraging entrepreneurs, celebrating success instead of attacking it and denigrating, makes America strong. That’s the right course for this country. His course is extraordinarily foreign. [Applause]
Now, Joe, Joe got it right. Where did Joe go? He, there he is right here. Joe got it right. He said somethingabout what would happen if President Obama were reelected. And I don’t think that’s going to happen. But if he were reelected, I want you to know that what you’ve see for the last three and a half years, you’d be seeing for the next four and a half years. And what that means is: chronic high levels of unemployment, it means low wage growth to negative wage growth, declining median incomes in this country, and it means putting America on the door to fiscal calamity.
Not seeing it yet? Well, just wait until you see the next passage!!
And so I see that entrepreneurial spirit and that innovativeness of the American people and our willingness to work hard in whatever role we have and to lift and to improve our lot and to improve the lot of the enterprises we work in—I see that as driving this economy to be the most powerful in the history of the Earth. It has already; it will again. The course we’re on right now is foreign to us. It changes America. This is a vote for what kind of America we’re going to have, and for me I vote for freedom and free people. [Applause]
Let me just end with this thought: this is an important choice. This is a defining choice. This is a choice about what America’s going to be. Not just for the next few years but for a century. This is a choice which will determine what kind of future our kids are going to have. And, in fact, it also determines what kind of future the world’s going to have. America plays an unusual role in the world—I think we understand that. Some in some circles tend to brush that aside. But those that have fought in world wars and other conflicts recognize the greatness of America and our unique role in the history of the earth. [Applause]
But but but . . . John Sununu said Obama needed to learn to be an American! Well, let’s look deeeeeep in the article to see what he actually said:
In a conference call arranged by the Romney campaign, Sununu assailed Obama’s roots in the “political-slash-felon environment” of Chicago and attacked the president’s recent statement that business leaders who had succeeded had help from government, in the form of teachers or road construction workers, among others.
Those business leaders, Sununu said, “are the people who are the backbone of our economy, and the president clearly demonstrated that he has absolutely no idea how the American economy functions. The men and women all over America who have worked hard to build these businesses — their businesses, from the ground up — is how our economy became the envy of the world.”
He added: “It is the American way, and I wish this president would learn how to be an American.”
Asked later whether he could clarify that remark, Sununu said Obama “has to learn the American formula for creating business.”
BIRTHERISM!!!!! He said Obama was born in Kenya!!! You heard him! Right? That was what he said, kinda . . . sorta . . . OK, not really. But . . .
Look. It has to be obvious to anyone reading these passages that Mitt Romney is not being a race-baiting racist obsessed with race who is a racist birther preying on xenophobic racist tropes of Obama being a black black foreign non-American guy. Romney is praising the entrepreneurial spirit. He is decrying the erosion of traditional values of American rugged independence by a nanny-state government that seeks to replicate the failed policies of Social Democrats in the crumbling empire of Europe.
Ah, who am I kidding? He’s just being a racist. The hell with capitalism, free markets, and the American way.
Honestly, the actual situation is worse than if Obama’s people had written this as a press release themselves. At least if it really were Obama staffers in there, there would legally have to be some kind of “I’m Barack Obama and I approved this message” disclaimer on the bottom of this blatant advertisement for Obama’s candidacy.
As it stands, it’s just more claptrap from the L.A. Times. And some idiots fall for it. They really do.
I use plastic bags to pick up my dog’s poop and I have no bird cage to line. This paper serves no purpose any more.
Why has the Obama team been publicly wailing about losing out to Mitt Romney in the money race? Why would the president accuse his opponent of not merely being wrong or unqualified but criminal? After all, the polls are tied, so why so much worry in Obamaland?
Like a mystery novel, the answer is in front of our noses: The candidates are still tied in the polls.
Luckily, even a panicking President can still find time for golf.
William Galston of Brookings recently published “Six Months to Go: Where the Presidential Contest Stands as the General Election Begins,” which compiles a wealth of polling to paint a fairly gloomy portrait of Pres. Obama’s reelection prospects:
Today, while Obama enjoys about a three-point edge over Romney, his electoral support remains well short of 50 percent. His job approval remains significantly lower than that of the past five incumbents who won their reelection contests and is actually two points lower than Jimmy Carter’s was at this point in 1980. (It is four points higher than George H. W. Bush’s job approval in 1992, however.)
Other yellow lights are flashing as well. One recent survey found that only 46 percent of the people think that Obama deserves to be reelected, versus 49 percent who do not. He receives mediocre grades for his handling of the economy and job creation. Another survey found fully 48 percent of the electorate would “never” vote for Obama, suggesting a ceiling below his 2008 share of the vote. (The corresponding figure for Romney was 46 percent.) And despite some recent improvement, key parts of the Democratic base remain less excited about the 2012 contest than are their Republican counterparts.
Read The Whole Thing, but the vast majority who don’t can get a flavor of it from TIME’s Michael Scherer.
The reactions to Galston’s report seem misguided. David Brooks wonders why Obama isn’t getting “crushed”, as the “economic climate is as bad as or worse than it was in 1968, 1976, 1992 and 2000, years when incumbent parties lost re-election.” Brooks concludes that Obama is benefiting from the Emerging Democratic Majority (despite Galston noting the lack of enthusiasm among said Majority) and because the president is just so gosh-darned likeable, what with the creased trousers and all (although the new USAT/Gallup poll is one of several showing Romney’s favorables climbing). (more…)
[T]he months between the end of the primary season and the formal start of the general election at the conventions are an especially perilous period for candidates in Mr. Romney’s position.
It is then that challengers to an incumbent are most susceptible to being defined on terms other than their own, because despite months on the campaign trail they are still not yet terribly well-known by many Americans. Unflattering characteristics, new elements of their record, gaffes and embarrassing biographical details – all can take on outsize importance as rival campaigns labor through the spring and summer to create perceptions that stick with voters through Election Day.
The risks of failing to win the spring-summer narrative battle are substantial. Just ask Michael Dukakis, Bob Dole or John Kerry, all of whom failed to establish strong positive images during this period and allowed their opponents to brand them in ways they never overcame.
Oddly enough, the WaPo’s Chris Cillizza recently noted that in elections with an incumbent since 1980, Mondale, Dole and Kerry all had high favorable ratings and lost, while Bill Clinton won with middling favorable ratings. And unlike Stevenson, Cillizza actually shows you the numbers that back him up. Stevenson is engaged in some zombie journalism about the effectiveness of negative campaigning. At least Cillizza was good enough to state his premises openly, even if he tended to bury them, e.g.:
Political scientists would have you believe that the data is determinative. But the data is subject to how each side conducts their respective campaign.
Actually, political scientists who stress that campaigns tend to turn on the fundamentals almost always concede that campaigns matter. Their argument is simply that they don’t matter as much as journalists who make their living covering them think. Mondale, Dukakis, Dole and Kerry all ran against incumbents (or a sitting Veep) who benefited from recovering or healthy economies. The only winning candidate in those cycles who substantially outperformed what the economy would suggest was Clinton, who still failed to reach 50% of the vote.
BTW, this problem is not limited to political coverage. Last week, the NYT magazine profiled Joe Weisenthal, the lead financial blogger for Business Insider, including this anecdote:
Last summer, amid rising concern that the economy would tip back into recession, Weisenthal repeatedly highlighted contrarian chunks of evidence suggesting that we were actually on the verge of stronger growth. It was a lonely view for a long time. It was also correct.
In a post last November titled “Everyone Is Wrong About What Is Driving the Market These Days,” Weisenthal reproduced a Google search showing a slew of articles describing the stock market as “headline-driven,” meaning that prices were responding to the latest news. Then he showed a chart he created illustrating the close relationship between movements in stock prices and a basic economic indicator.
“So it’s a ‘headline-driven market’?” he wrote. “Nah, not really. . . . The market is just moving with the fundamentals, week in and week out. The headlines are mostly a distraction.”
Most political journalists figured out that the rise in Obama’s approval rating had something to do with this. However, they still seem trapped into pretending that when the real swing voters finally start paying attention to the campaign, the result will not largely converge with the fundamentals. The history of head-to-head polling suggests that about half of what we see now is noise, that the curve mostly flattens out at this stage of an election and that polls don’t really start to suggest the outcome earlier than August. The evidence for mid-May being a quiet turning point in the campaign is wafer-thin.
Goldberg *** explained that there “is a certain Marxist sting” to the cliché of being “on the right side of history.” It’s a way, he continued, of “saying to your opponents, ‘hey, look, you’re going to lose this argument eventually so you might as well quit now and stop complaining.’”
Indeed, Marx’s stages of history smack of this sort of determinism. Moreover, given his gig at National Review, it’s not surprising that Goldberg — by way of Burke — alludes to part of the magazine’s mission statement, in which William F. Buckley, Jr. famously proclaimed the mag “stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.”
At times, I run the risk of falling into an inversion of this cliché. Less than a week ago, I wrote:
The past century has been one in which progressives have put forth the idea that Soviet communism is what works, that Eurofascism is what works, that Maoism is what works, and that Eurosocialism is what works. The actual history of the past century is one in which Eurofascism was defeated in WWII, Soviet communism was defeated in the Cold War, Maoism has degenerated into a fascism and crony capitalism that only Tom Friedman finds attractive, and Eurosocialism is taking its own road to the dustbin of history. To be sure, voters in the UK and France are resisting, the Germans less so. But fiscal realities will continue to intrude, regardless of which governments they elect. They will eventually figure out what the OECD and IMF already have about the solution to their problems: spending less is the answer.
(More on the degree to which failed European “austerity” has relied on taxes here.) I have also been fairly optimistic about what the current state of the Eurozone will teach Americans:
I am not for doing nothing about the debt ceiling and have written a number of pieces about the need to do something about the public debt at all levels of government. Moreover, it is certainly possible that in a debt crisis, the intransigence of the left could force the federal government to take a tax-heavy approach proven to fail in all those other OECD countries. I tend to think there is still enough of the American spirit around to resist becoming wage slaves to the state. Assuming we can manage to avoid a more statist approach than Canada, Sweden and Finland, it would seem the left ought to have the greater interest in defusing the debt bomb now, as a crisis will likely be tougher on their priorities.
Goldberg’s book, as much as the current political tensions in parts of the Eurozone, is a reminder that good policy choices do not make themselves. Indeed, Matt K. Lewis is very likely correct in declaring austerity “in and of itself,” a political loser today. Unfortunately, simply talking up economic growth is not only insufficient as a policy matter, but also too easily embraced as a political dodge of our debt problem.
History, like policy, does not make itself. One thing the right should grudgingly admire about the left is their relentlessness. The left never stops agitating, “educating” and organizing to push its version of history, even in the face of its evident failure over the past several decades. Excepting Walter Mondale, they rarely run on the promise of massive tax hikes for the middle class — but they never stop talking and writing about the future necessity for them. They never stop writing and talking about their dream of socialized healthcare — and take whatever jumps they can in that direction whenever they have sufficient control over the government.
Non-statists need to be equally relentless, both in pursuing our vision and in confronting the left’s vision. Indeed, non-statists should be even more driven, given the left’s effective control of the establishment media. This structural disadvantage makes our candidates even more important, because for all the of the media’s attempted agenda-setting, campaign coverage (and advertising) still necessarily focuses on the candidates and their messages.
Although I have had my share of problems with Mitt Romney, one of his primary virtues is that he frequently makes the point that Obama is leading America in the direction of Eurosocialism at precisely the moment Eurosocialism is imploding. It is my hope that when Team Obama starts its Mediscare campaign in earnest, Team Romney will lead its response by noting that the do-nothing Obama approach will also end Medicare as we know it — but that the likely result will be the non-innovative, rationed healthcare of Eurosocialism. Even when the left thinks it can put non-statists on defense, we should be working to create the environment in which statism is understood as not “what works,” more tax revenues are a small part of any solution to public debt (preferably from tax reform and consequent growth), and reform of the entitlement state is politically palatable. Many find Romney a weak standard-bearer for conservatism, but he has been willing to carry this banner — and it is a crucial one to carry, not only for this election, but for cycles to come.
You see, the Washington Examiner columnist had the gall to not only suggest that Americans care more about the economy than whether Mitt Romney gave someone a haircut 47 years ago, but also to suggest that Tamron Hall was pandering to her audience of dozens by dragging out the story on the pretense of doing the meta-story of how the Romney campaign is reacting to the story which most people do not care about. Actually, Carney was far more polite than that, which did not stop MSNBC from cutting Carney’s mic while Hall yelled at him:
WFB has the full video. Apparently, Hall’s support staff thinks Hall was unequipped to have that discussion with Carney — or that MSNBC is ill-equipped when someone pulls back the curtain on how the establishment media drags out nonstories to suit their biases.
Update: Carney tweets: “The question I was sent for the Romney bullying segment was ‘Does the story matter?’ So I was answering it, not dodging.”
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Liberals, when not spending your money, are kind of a cheap date, aren’t they?
President Obama declared his personal support for same-sex marriage yesterday, but the White House chose not to push for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act today.
“Well, party platform issues are for the party to decide,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said when asked if Obama would call for the repeal of DOMA and endorsement of pro-gay marriage language in the party platform.
The problem with the President’s position is that it cannot be reconciled with the Administration’s stance on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. According to Attorney General Eric Holder, he and the President concluded that the constitutionality of legal distinctions based upon sexual preference cannot be defended. In their view, because DOMA precludes federal recognition of same-sex marriages, it violates the constitutional guarantee of equal protection under the Fifth Amendment. Further, according to Holder’s statement, they concluded that no “reasonable” constitutional argument could be made in DOMA’s defense. Yet if DOMA is unconstitutional under equal protection, which applies to the state and federal governments equally, then how could any state law barring recognition of same-sex marriages survive constitutional scrutiny?
Now, legal types can be more nuanced about this, but you can be sure the folks swooning over Obama’s announcement of his personal opinion are not. And given that Obama’s opinion is that states should decide, I again wonder how the folks who think recognizing same sex marriage (and gay rights generally) to be the preeminent civil rights issue of the day embrace Obama’s embrace of states’ rights. After all, they would never accept that position regarding interracial marriage would they? If Obama took that position… maybe.