Friday, July 29, 2011


Still think the public will blame the Republicans if we have a debt apocalypse? Here's Gallup:

President Obama's job approval rating is at a new low, averaging 40% in July 26-28 Gallup Daily tracking. His prior low rating of 41% occurred several times, the last of which was in April. As recently as June 7, Obama had 50% job approval.

Obama's approval rating averaged 46% in June and was near that level for most of July; however, it has stumbled in the past few days, coinciding with intensification of the debt ceiling/budget battle in Washington....

Ezra Klein, citing academic research, thinks that's not going to remain true, because President Obama no longer seems to be taking the lead and the main action on the debt has shifted to Congress:

In a 2010 paper presented at the American Political Science Association's annual conference, Asger Lau Andersen, David Dreyer Lassen and Lasse Holboll Westh Nielsen tried to take a systematic look at how voters respond to fiscal gridlock.... this sort of budgetary dysfunction happens all the time on the state level. Between 1988 and 2007, 167 state budgets were late, which is a pretty good signal that the political system charged with producing them fell into gridlock....

"While governors are punished only when part of a unified government, legislatures are (almost) always punished."

This suggests that when one party controls the government, voters blame them for budgetary breakdowns. But when the two parties split control, the executive is able to float above the squabbling in the legislature, or at least heavily influence the way the public assigns fault. "Governors may be more adept at the blame game that sometimes follows failures to finish a budget on time," the authors speculate.

... it's ... evidence that Obama's strategy of trying to personally manage the negotiations hasn't improved his numbers. Which is why it's probably helping him that Boehner decided to move the negotiations over to Congress and assume more of the blame himself....

I'm having trouble downloading the paper, so I haven't read it, but the abstract says (emphasis added):

In general, electoral penalties are larger where clarity of responsibility, affected by divided government, supermajority requirements and seat share margins, is higher....

Do you think we're in a situation in which "clarity of responsibility" is high? I'd say it's just the opposite. Our news organizations are telling this story one way: It's everyone's fault; it's the system's fault. And the failure of Democrats (under duress, admittedly) to stick to basic principles -- principally, an approach with tax increases on the well-to-do -- makes that clarity even more difficult to attain.

So I'm not in any way convinced that this is going to be blamed on Republicans.


And I'm even less convinced when I see John Boehner going back and adding mandatory passage of a balanced budget amendment by Congress to his bill.

Yes, I know the Senate will reject that in the next couple of days. But I think I know how this crisis ends. We'll pass the deadline. We'll begin the process of default. Global markets will go into convulsions. Yet the president won't invoke the 14th Amendment. And so Democrats will do the only thing they can possible do to get the crisis resolved: they'll agree to the current Boehner plan, with the mandatory passage of a balanced budget amendment before the debt ceiling can be raised again. And the president will sigh and sign the bill. Which is an even more horrifying outcome than what we thought was going to happen all this week.

Then do you want to talk about "clarity of responsibility"?

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