A Flea in the Fur of the Beast

“Death, fire, and burglary make all men equals.” —Dickens

The One Sympathetic Aspect About Romney’s 47% Remarks

by evanmcmurry

The man who taped Mitt Romney’s 47% comments—and who should only have to pay for 47% of any drink he orders ever again—is coming forward, on the Ed Schultz show, which suggests his canny thinking may stop at hidden recordings. Anyhoo, here’s what HuffPo had to say about the genesis of the event:

The man, who tended bar for a company that catered to a high-end clientele, had previously worked at a fundraiser at a home where [Bill] Clinton spoke. After Clinton addressed guests, the man recalled, the former president came back to the kitchen and thanked the staff, the waiters, the bartenders, the busboys, and everyone else involved in putting the event together. He shook hands, took photos, signed autographs, and praised the meal—all characteristic of the former president.

When the bartender learned he would be working at Romney’s fundraiser, his first thought was to bring his camera, in case he had a chance to get a photo with the presidential candidate. Romney, of course, did not speak to any of the staff, bussers or waiters. He was late to the event, and rushed out. He told his dinner guests that the event was off the record, but never bothered to repeat the admonition to the people working there.

Ha ha, Mitt Romney doesn’t care about the help. Except Bill Clinton is an ex-President, Mitt Romney was running for president; those are two massively different paces of existence. We can mock Mitt Romney for a lot—and we do—but I don’t think Bartender McSecrettape would be gladhanding with staff if he had Romney’s campaign schedule.

None of this is to detract from the man’s accomplishment. Once again, 53% of his drinks are on us for the rest of his life.

The Long Game

by evanmcmurry

Greg Sargeant gets down and dirty with sequester polling numbers. The headline you’ve been reading is that Obama’s approval rating is suffering from the sequester cuts. It is—but not as much as Republicans are getting blamed for the cuts. Quoting Sargeant:

  • “72 percent of Americans, including 74 percent of independents and 81 percent of moderates, disapprove of the Congressional GOP.
  • “Americans disapprove of the sequester cuts by 53-39; 64 percent say they’ll hurt the economy; 60 percent say they’ll hurt the government’s ability to provide basic services; and 69 percent say they’ll hurt the military.
  • “Americans hold Congressional Republicans responsible for the sequester cuts by 47-33.
  • “68 percent want Obama and the GOP to work together to avert the cuts, while only 28 percent want them to continue (the conservative position).”

In the short term, this seems like a winning GOP strategy: just hold your breath while Obama’s post-election popularity slowly erodes. And I guess if your goal is to attack a weakened President for the next four-to-eight weeks, that’ll work.

But this little stalemate seems more than roughly analogous to the debt ceiling debate, when approval ratings for both the GOP House and Obama suffered as a result of the debt ceiling fiasco, which even possible life on Mars could tell occurred at the insistence of intransigent Republican House members. Go forward a couple of months, though, and you see Obama’s numbers rebound: in fact, directly following the debt ceiling debate Obama began the climb that culminated in his 2012 reelection, and while correlation does not equal causation, it’s not hard to read Obama’s recuperation in the public eye as a response to a party that seemed intent on non-governance. Not surprisingly, the GOP’s numbers never went back up; as Obama began his (modest) rise in September of 2011, the GOP, which had showed momentum earlier in the year, stayed at the dismal approval levels that led to their shellacking in 2012.

Moral of the story: inflicting an arbitrary crisis on the government is a Pyrrhic victory. It wounds the President—temporarily. It does nothing for the opposition causing the crisis. As I argued yesterday, Republicans seem dead set on giving Dems as much chance in 2014 as possible, and this sequester move looks to be part and parcel with that. It’s the long-term strategy of a group of House Republicans in safely redrawn districts, not anybody concerned with winning power on a national scale.

Well, what did you expect? (Filibuster edition)

by pdxblake

It truly baffles me that the Democratic Senate leaders can be so naïve by being willing to believe the Republicans in the Senate would be willing to acknowledge they are in the minority and they cannot therefore control every decision made in the Senate after the last few years of slash-and-burn tactics.  They should have listened to the Junior Senator from Oregon, Jeff Merkley, who wanted to take a harder line on changes to the filibuster to stop, well, this (via Talking Points Memo)

Senate Democratic leaders have engaged in preliminary discussions about how to address Republican procedural obstruction, according to a senior Democratic aide, reflecting an awareness that key administration and judicial vacancies might never be filled, and that a watered-down rules reform deal the parties struck early this Congress has failed.

“The general agreement was that Republicans would only filibuster nominees in the case of extraordinary circumstances, and once again Republicans are expanding the definition of that term to make it entirely meaningless,” the aide said.

The Market Works!

by evanmcmurry

More in-depth reporting from the conservative blogosphere:

The bloggers involved, none of whom regularly cover Eastern European politics, say they were pitched by a public relations firm to write the stories, but that they weren’t compensated for them, unlike bloggers who wrote in support of the Malaysian government.

You don’t hear the it’s-cool-because-I-did-it-for-free excuse coming from the right too often. Question from the back: if they weren’t doing it for the money…?

The wealthy tax exodus (the evidence)

by pdxblake

Offered without comment from the Tax Justice Network (ht Mark Thoma):

In a population of 65 million we have one confirmed departure, one effort to leave… We see kind of story this again and again: hyperventilating threats from a country’s wealthiest citizens that they will depart in droves if they have to pay higher taxes – yet when their bluff is called they fail to act – but still keep on grousing and issuing the threats. It’s tiresome. …

One of the best testing grounds for the ‘tax migration’ theory is among individual states in the United States, which each levy variable state taxes … and where cross-state migration is far easier than moving, say, to a different country…

And here the evidence is unambiguous. Take this Stanford paper, for instance, which finds ‘negligible’ effects from a large state tax hike in New Jersey. Or this ITEP paper entitled “Where Have All of Maryland’s Millionaires Gone?… Or this, on New York, or this, on Oregon.

Living in the Shadows

by drewnilsen

Back in 2006, I finished a job in the Chicago area. Before returning home to Texas, I planned a solo trip to check out Milwaukee, a mere hour and a half away. A few years prior, I had read an article that pegged Milwaukee as the #1 most underrated city in America, but I had never visited (generally because, on roadtrips, I would stay with friends in Chicago and Madison or Minneapolis).

My colleagues – all from Chicagoland – seemed bemused but intrigued by my excursion. One, who grew up in Chicago, had never even been to Milwaukee. Within a few hours, we had wrangled a posse of Chicagoans to make the arduous trek up I-94, and we all had a blast consuming brats and spectacular coffee, checking out some fun tourist traps, and hitting the colorful bars on Brady Street. The night ended with the entire bar singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” with us (don’t ask).

This is not to suggest that Milwaukee is better than Chicago. (I despise hierarchical comparisons of cities being “better” than others. They’re just different.) But the Chicagoans’ dismissal of plucky little Milwaukee as a place not worth visiting is a phenomenon that exists elsewhere.

Last month, residents of Baltimore were perturbed by a condescending Travel piece published in the Washington Post that culminated in a superfluous, snarky “I wouldn’t want to live there, but what a place to explore.”

I’ve only lived in D.C. for a little over a year, but I suspect a lot of Washingtonians share that attitude towards Bawlmer – maybe not outright condescension, but at least dismissal or oblivion. I’ve visited Baltimore a few times in the last month (though I’ve been there previously), and I’ve found it to be a vibrant, fun place full of more characters and self-expression than I usually find on the street in DC (even in hip neighborhoods like Columbia Heights). So, whether that dismissal is bad for Baltimore (or Milwaukee), a lot of people in DC (or Chicago) are missing out.

A similar phenomenon can occur with a medium-sized city subsumed by a larger metro area. Oakland has been “discovered” within the last decade or so, but I recall its reputation among residents of San Francisco and the Bay Area prior to that was of violence and poverty – despite the fact that it always was a big city that, in addition to gangs and slums, also had wealthy homes in the hills, a downtown business district, stadiums, and a cultural diversity and range of income levels that most cities have.
While Oakland has “Brooklynized,” a more current example is Long Beach. I grew up in Los Angeles County (in a beach suburb not too far from Long Beach), but Long Beach always seemed to suffer from the same negative connotations Oakland used to have. I’ve always found it to be a more affordable, lively part of L.A. that has a laid-back vibe and incredible ethnic diversity, as well as some cool shopping districts, bars, and coffeeshops. But, even last year, when I was asking Angelenos about good neighborhoods for a friend of mine to live in, Long Beach still suffered from a “hood” sort of reputation.

Maybe this isn’t a bad thing. The very dismissal from the big city allows the forlorn city to flourish. I just stayed with a friend in Baltimore; she’s a District native who recently moved from the DC suburbs to a beautiful house in Hampden, Baltimore that she bought for a price that would be unattainable in Washington.

“I think it’s also important to note that being the smaller, dismissed city is part of Baltimore’s psyche. … People here are proud of where they live, and no small part of that pride is based in constantly having to defend the city’s merits. People here have strong feelings about the city, and a loyalty towards it, that I think is at least in part a reaction to those dismissive attitudes. So I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing,” my friend said. “If those dismissive attitudes didn’t exist, and more people were moving from DC to Baltimore, the character of the city would change greatly. … We get a lot of creative weirdos and nerds and entrepreneurs and people who want to make a difference in a local community, and that population makes the city what it is. Plus the dismissive attitude [from DC] keeps down traffic and costs and makes it possible to get into pretty much any event without lots of advance planning — it keeps things more casual and spontaneous and affordable. It would be a very different city if folks in DC and NYC didn’t dismiss it. I don’t think the dismissive attitude is really such a negative thing for Baltimore — as much as I love to speak up on behalf of my city in the face of dismissiveness, it’s really just filling me with more pride, not detracting from my experience of living here. It’s the people in DC who dismiss it who are losing out.”

So maybe all is well. The ostensibly underrated places remain bastions of the weirdos and cheap rent and artists and all the things that foster a funky subculture, which they’d lose if discovered. This is not to say that bigger, expensive cities like New York can’t also be incubators of innovation and culture – they surely are. But like a neighborhood that hasn’t fully gentrified, the symbiosis between a bigger, more “important” city and its forlorn little brother an hour up the road or nestled in its metro area is perfect.

Still, if you’re a fan of great cities, hop on the train next weekend. There might be a great place you’re overlooking.