Republican Primary Potpourri

Newt Gingrich’s domination of the South Carolina primary has suddenly turned what most had assumed was a solemn Republican march to a Mitt Romney candidacy into at least for the moment, a serious two man showdown for the nomination. Here are a couple of our thoughts on the matter:

Ross Freiman-Mendel on Why Republicans Like Newt Gingrich:

He’s surprised everyone and proved the Republican establishment wrong on multiple occasions. After a stunning win in South Carolina, Newt Gingrich now leads in Florida and continues to undermine the Romney “inevitability” argument.

Romney exudes technocrat (plutocrat if you’re a liberal or Newt) – a statement on his affect, not policy. At his best, the Massachusetts Governor is uninspiring. Even if you’re inclined to agree with George Will, who finds the former speaker nauseating, Gingrich’s rhetoric makes you think he’s the next Ronald Reagan.

In terms of attracting the average voter, Rush Limbaugh explains Gingrich’s victory best:

I’ve been doing this show for 23 years, and one of my themes from the beginning — from 1988 — has been that the American conservative middle class are the ones playing by the rules, and they’re laughed at, and they’re made fun of, and they are impugned everywhere they look.

The base of the Republican Party, the voters, have been bottling up for 25 years a resentment — an anger, if you will — that their party won’t fight for them. When Newt gets teed up with these [debate] questions . . . and simply says what they’ve been thinking for 25 years, they say, ‘Finally!’

The effects of the debates are apparent, where Newt, “attacks his fellow candidates, the media, and President Obama with a gusto that’s almost joyous.” Ultimately, the reasons for the Newt’s surge are neither profound nor complicated. Romney is a flip-flopping milquetoast, and Newt’s the most palatable alternative.

Continue reading

And That’s Why We Don’t Gamble

Yesterday’s Iowa Caucus results:
Mitt Romney: 24.6% – 30,015
Rick Santorum: 24.5% – 30,008
Ron Paul: 21.4% – 26,219

As you can see above, our Iowa Caucus predictions were not particularly good. My faith in the powers of same day registration and a passionate following proved unfounded as Ron Paul finished third.

Ross at least guessed a Rick Santorum second place finish, but failed to foresee a Mitt Romney victory in the caucuses, let alone one over Santorum.

Also of note, Michele Bachmann suspended her campaign today, and the status of Rick Perry candidacy is unknown after a recent tweet suggesting he was going to continue on in the race.

- Chip Lebovitz

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Iowa Caucus Predictions

Hey Everyone,
We’re back and just in time to bring in the New Year with our Iowa Caucus predictions, though sadly not in time for the most recent Des Moines Register Poll that would have made our lives a lot easier. C’est la vie, I guess. Our caucus predictions are below:

Ross Freiman-Mendel: Predicting the winner of Iowa caucuses is a fun exercise, but caucus goers will not deliver the eventual Republican nominee. Ron Paul will win in Iowa on January 3rd, with Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney finishing in second and third, respectively. It’s also noteworthy how these predictions show how irrelevant the Ames Straw Poll was in its predicative powers.

Ron Paul’s latest controversy spurred by his old newsletters underscores the fact that the conservative establishment considers him a real threat. The Texas Congressman will maintain his lead for three reasons: his idealistic, consistent message; the lucky, albeit fickle timing of the scandal during the dead news cycles of Christmas and New Years Eve; and because he’s defter than Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich in his ability to maneuver his own political baggage. Defections from the Bachmann campaign are also telling, in addition to Paul benefiting from unique state rules dictating who can vote in the caucus.

Rick Santorum will surprise all, narrowly inching out Mr. Romney. His persistent yet shortsighted approach to Iowa has and will continue to pay dividends, as he begins to surge at just the right time. In the words of Paul Gigot of The Wall Street Journal, “Mr. Santorum is all moral values all the time.” Unfortunately for Mr. Santorum, Iowans hardly reflect the composition of the Republican electorate, and his deeply Christian campaign has little national appeal.

While Mitt Romney will place a close third, the loss will benefit him immensely. It’s well known that a loss in Iowa can do just as much for a candidate as a win, just look at George H.W. Bush’s third place finish in 1988. The pressure from other candidates has finally enlivened Mr. Romney, who up until now has been boring and uninspiring. Just recently he compared President Obama to Marie Antoinette and Newt Gingrich to Lucille Ball. This heated rhetoric is good omen that the candidate is finally willing to sling some punches. Continue reading

Brief Update

Hey Everyone,
Just a quick update. We’re in the midst of a two month hiatus for academic and RhodySquash purposes respectively.

Feel free to check out Ross’ work for RhodySquash or my columns for the Brown Daily Herald.

Chip Lebovitz

Catherine Lutz on the True Costs of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars

“The answer there I think is that the government doesn’t really want to have the public involved in questioning whether or not we should go to war. They want that to be kept in their own hands and some of the public will agree with that, but many will say that they would like to have full information in order to make their opinion known.”

- Catherine Lutz on war accounting differences between her study and the official numbers.

ChrossTalk Episode 15: Catherine Lutz


Our episode with Professor Catherine Lutz is online. Catherine Lutz is the Thomas J. Watson, Jr. Family Professor of Anthropology and International Studies  at Brown University’s Watson Institute of International Studies. We mostly cover her most recent work on the Costs of War project, a study designed to find the true costs of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

We’d like to thank Professor Catherine Lutz for joining us. No Ross this week for the episode as he was helping set up RhodySquash, an combo academic tutoring and squash coaching after-school program for the youth of Newport, RI.

The Talk: Tax Increases or Class Warfare?

The Talk: Tax Increases or Class Warfare?
September 22, 2011

Chip Lebovitz: The president finally released a concrete deficit reduction plan Monday. Taking a populist stance, the president’s plan features GOP opposed tax increases including one specifically on millionaires called the “Buffett Rule,” named after the billionaire hedge fund manager who suggested the idea in a recent New York Times op-ed. What’s your take on the president’s proposal Ross?

Ross Freiman-Mendel: The president has once again proven that he’s either woefully lost or willfully destructive with the economy. Senator Tom Coburn said it best: “The plan is a giant tax increase [with] maybe 81 billion in cuts and 1.45 trillion in revenues.” The best example is the “Buffett Rule,” is nothing but class warfare and political posturing at the expense of job creation.

Chip Lebovitz: The plan just represents what I find to be the current political reality. Republicans would have seized on any concessions the president had thrown out in his opening offer and pulled him past where a natural agreement should lie. The Buffett Rule, however, is anything but class warfare – it’s an idea supported by the people suggested by a member of the truly rich. The basic thrust that the extremely wealthy should pay as much in taxes as someone from middle class – hardly an unfair notion.

Ross Freiman-Mendel: And with what authority can Mr. Buffett speak, when he has relied on bailouts — i.e. Goldman and Bank of America — to make his investments successful? A tax is fundamentally a punishment; President Obama proposes we should take more from rich people because they’re successful and have more of something. But ideology aside, the plan is terrible economics, because the government now demands a share of capitals gains only 2.5 years after Bernanke went to infinite and beyond to pump up the “wealth effect” for the richest 1% of Americans. That’s contradictory.

Chip Lebovitz: That’s a bold statement on the nature of taxes; basically, you are declaring that the payroll tax is punishing people for wanting to have Social Security. Turning back to Mr. Buffett, his investments would still be an overall success with or without the government bailouts of Goldman Sachs and Bank of America. If anything, he realizes the value of government preventing a complete economic meltdown – instead of a very large scale one – and feels that maybe he and his fellow millionaires might contribute a bit to help the government balance its budgets after it took the time to support their industry. Furthermore, the timing of this tax plan is in fact its best part; most economists support stimulus now to get the economy going with long term deficit reduction to prevent a ballooning of debt to GDP over the long run.

Ross Freiman-Mendel: But you haven’t responded to the impacts on the wealth effect. When you say “a bit” that’s totally disingenuous; increasing the tax on capital gains could cut actually income for those invested in the stock market by 25 percent, encouraging all to exit the market at the current lower rate capital gains rate of 15 percent and forcing more downward pressure on the stock market. Crash anyone? I’m all for “smart” stimulus now, but all this plan does is continuing to make the country inhospitable to business and economic growth in the name of “fair share.”

Chip Lebovitz: That’s because the wealth effect isn’t even relevant here. David Backus, an NYU economist, showed that the wealth effect, when people perceive their money is more valuable then it is, isn’t visible in stock prices. But regardless, Republican leadership has ruled out tax reform, the best revenue raising concept, for super committee consideration. How else you would you raise revenue to help balance the deficit.

Ross Freiman-Mendel: I (and I believe basically every member of the Federal Reserve, including the Chairman himself) respectfully will question David Backus’ claim, because the wealth effects applies directly to the stock market. I see two great ways to raise revenue. First, have Mr. Buffett (and his cohort Mr. Gates) donate 90% of their wealth to the Treasury, and second, implement tax reform that closes loopholes and brings individual rates down across the board.

Chip Lebovitz: Speaker Boehner has ruled out tax reform, and a vast majority of Mr. Buffett’s wealth has been marked off for charity. You’re points however sum up an irresponsible view of debt reduction, “Either let someone else do it, or push it down the road so it’s not your problem.” At least the president is trying to create a comprehensive solution now that doesn’t gut a major entitlement or two.

Ross Freiman-Mendel: Any attempt to solve our debt with lots of revenue and pathetic spending cuts implies the president wants to fund current spending levels. As I’ve said before, the he will continue to punt the can down the road, but one day it obstinately will remain motionless. That’s when our real problems will begin.

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Source: Dave Makes

Jake Sherman On Congress, Special Elections, and the Super Committee

“If you’re the president, you never want to lose a special election, and Democrats are very good at special elections.”

- Jake Sherman on the aftermath of last week’s special election in New York

ChrossTalk Episode 14: Jake Sherman


Our episode with Jake Sherman is online. Jake Sherman reports on Congress for Politico. We mostly cover his beat, and a look into last week’s special elections.

We’d like to thank Jake Sherman for joining us. His most recent story out yesterday discusses the GOP’s potential problems passing an omnibus spending bill.