The Democrats’ “Diversity Problem”


There was a bit of a stink after Chuck Todd suggested the Democrats wish they had the diversity the GOP showed at the RNC this week. Josh Marshall said it was, “one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard anyone say.” And then Marshall and Todd debated about it over Twitter. At which point Todd made it clear that he was reporting what the Obama campaign had said to him.

And this is reported material btw, not pundit speculation.

Marshall pointed out how diverse the Democratic party is.

Dude. Actually, let me rephrase that … DUDE. Black prez. 2 asian-am sens, 1 Hisp sen, black gov. (1/3)

2 huge caucuses of hispanic & af-am lawmakers in House, do u really believe the dems “had to go” to a red state to (2/3)

To which Todd repeatedly suggested that this came from the Obama Administration and claimed he was talking about “high profile” positions.

how many govs and senators do the dems have on this front? That was my point. High profile positions

ask the Obama campaign if they wish they had govs and sens as diverse as GOP right now.

Now, frankly, I think Chuck Todd’s problem–in this particular instance–is that he repeated what the Obama campaign said to him, rather than pointing out how crazy the Obama campaign is. It’s not just diversity they want, it’s the right kind of diversity.

Which brings me to the Sunday shows, which include the following lineups–which presumably were made with the significant input of the Obama Administration. (h/t Elliott)

ABC’s This Week:  White House senior adviser David Plouffe.


CBS’ Face the Nation:Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-MD), former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Obama Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter.

CNN’s State of the Union: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Gov. Bev Perdue (D-NC), and Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-MD). Then, Obama Senior Campaign Adviser Robert Gibbs. Senior Romney Campaign Adviser Eric Fehrnstrom.

Fox News Sunday:DNC Chair Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Obama Campaign Senior Advisor David Axelrod.

NBC’s Meet the Press:Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel.

The Latino Mayor of Los Angeles, a tainted but Latino former Governor of New Mexico, lots of dickish top campaign advisors, dickish Rahm, Governor O’Malley (who’s been a superb campaign surrogate).

And just two women, one Stephanie Cutter appearance and one appearance from the Governor of the state hosting the Convention.

Not even DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who whatever else I might say about her is also a terrific media figure. Read more

How Are Americans Feeling about Their Own Circumstances Now, David Plouffe?

Perhaps I’m getting tiresome with this point, but sorry, I’m going to make it again.

Two months ago, David Plouffe dismissed the possibility that the unemployment rate would have any effect on Obama’s reelection chances. He (correctly) noted that people judged the President’s performance on the economy by their assessment of how the economy is doing for them.

Problem is, he claimed that people’s perception of how they were doing was improving.

The average American does not view the economy through the prism of GDP or unemployment rates or even monthly jobs numbers.

In fact, those terms very rarely pass their lips. So it’s a very one-dimensional view. They view the economy through their own personal prism. You see, people’s — people’s attitude towards their own personal financial situation has actually improved over time. You know, they’re still concerned about the long-term economic future of the country, but it’s things like “My sister was unemployed for six months and was living in my basement and now she has a job.” There’s a — a “help wanted” sign. You know, the local diner was a little busier this week. Home Depot was a little busier. These are the ways people talk about the economy. [my emphasis]

Only, people’s impression of the economy isn’t improving over time. In fact, they’re pretty pessimistic about the economy.

The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index®, which had improved slightly in July, plummeted in August. The Index now stands at 44.5 (1985=100), down from 59.2 in July. The Present Situation Index decreased to 33.3 from 35.7. The Expectations Index decreased to 51.9 from 74.9 last month.


Says Lynn Franco, Director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center: “Consumer confidence deteriorated sharply in August, as consumers grew significantly more pessimistic about the short-term outlook. The index is now at its lowest level in more than two years (April 2009, 40.8).


Consumers’ short-term outlook deteriorated sharply in August. Those expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months decreased to 11.8 percent from 17.9 percent, while those expecting business conditions to worsen surged to 24.6 percent from 16.1 percent. Consumers were also more pessimistic about the outlook for the job market. Those anticipating more jobs in the months ahead decreased to 11.4 percent from 16.9 percent, while those expecting fewer jobs increased to 31.5 percent from 22.2 percent. The proportion of consumers anticipating an increase in their incomes declined to 14.3 percent from 15.9 percent.

I take no glee in this crappy report. but I do think it’s a pretty accurate read of how people feel about their own personal circumstances and I do agree with Plouffe that this is the economic measure people make when considering whom to vote for.

So I really hope Plouffe stops trying to claim things are great when they really aren’t.

Stimulus in Action, MI Edition

I’ve said a couple of times here that Jennifer Granholm’s record as governor was better than I gave her credit for, particularly economically.

The press is beginning to do some of the same reassessment. They’re discovering that, in spite of the Governor Engler tax cuts that made it harder to respond to MI’s downturn, Granholm did succeed in laying the groundwork for recovery.

But over the past year, a steady stream of economic statistics and research finds that Granholm is looking better in hindsight.

Here are some of the surprising Granholm highlights:

  • Michigan tied with Minnesota for the nation’s largest decline in unemployment from 2009 to 2010. The state also experienced the nation’s sixth-largest increase in per-capita personal income in that same year-to-year period.
  • State taxes as a percentage of personal income in 2011 are $7 billion lower than they were under John Engler in 2000. The fiscal problems the state faced were magnified by one statistic: Michigan’s overall tax revenues peaked during the prosperous year of 2000 and are not expected to return to that level until 2020.
  • Though the Granholm-backed Michigan Business Tax — the so-called “job-killer” tax — was still fully in place, the state achieved a substantial bounce in manufacturing jobs in 2010, a trend that was projected to continue throughout 2011.
  • Michigan ranks No. 1 in the nation for job creation improvement in a recent Gallup survey of state job markets, and Gov. Rick Snyder took office with some Granholm momentum that is expected to produce 64,600 jobs in 2011.

What this article doesn’t mention, of course, is that in addition to Granholm’s tireless effort to attract jobs and foster some diversity, MI also benefited from the massive government intervention of the auto bailout and received a number of grants that helped make possible factories like the Johnson Controls factory.

Speaking of which, here’s what the CEO of JCI, Steve Roell, had to say last Thursday about all the job creation Obama didn’t want to talk about.

Through innovation and investment in technology and people, Johnson Controls is a leader in the energy storage industry. We are investing more than $460 million in our advanced battery business for manufacturing and technical facilities here in Michigan and the U.S. These investments will lead to over 700 new jobs, retention of another 400, and provide approximately 1,000 construction workers.

We are doing that through several major efforts:

  • We recently announced we will be converting our Toledo, Ohio-area plant to produce batteries for Start-Stop vehicles, which have been successful in the European market and will be introduced next year in the U.S. These batteries help reduce fuel consumption and emissions by 5-12% for internal combustion engine vehicles with little added cost to the consumer. This investment will retain 400 jobs, and create 50 new positions and 800 construction jobs.
  • We recently opened our newly renovated Battery Technology and Testing Center in Milwaukee. It is the largest energy storage R&D center in the country, and we have added 60 new jobs. I’m pleased to say we just learned yesterday that Johnson Controls is receiving additional Department of Energy funding for research for developing green manufacturing processes and the next generation of lithium batteries.
  • This facility in Holland will be the first in the U.S. to produce complete lithium-ion battery cells and systems for hybrid and electric vehicles, producing battery systems for U.S. based automakers, such as the Ford Transit Connect. Employment at this facility will be 320 people at full capacity. We have committed to building a second facility in the U.S. Once we identify a location, build the plant and get to full capacity, we expect to add nearly 300 additional jobs.

These projects are great examples of public-private partnerships that use innovation and technology to produce products that reduce fuel consumption and create jobs.
We are very grateful for the outstanding support we have received from the White House, the U.S. Department of Energy, the state of Michigan and the city of Holland for their vision in building an advanced battery industry for vehicles in the U.S. and for the financial incentives they have provided. [my emphasis]

Even perspectives on the auto bailout are improving (as the graphic above, from focus groups associated with this poll, shows).

Yet seemingly at the moment when attitudes about government investment in the economy are changing, the Obama Administration wants to pretend it never happened.

MI is by no means out of the woods yet (Governor Snyder’s cuts of both incentives and social benefits risk doing real damage). But it’s clear that it had started to turn around in 2009-2010. It’s clear that, partly because of government stimulus, what was then the basket-case of the US has started to turn around.

Yet for some reason, the government wants to avoid taking any lesson from this.

David Plouffe and Bill Daley Double Down on Rhetoric over Action

Greg Sargent has a followup to this weekend’s NYT article on the Administration’s debate over how or whether to make the “pivot to jobs” Obama promised throughout the debt limit fight.

It appears that Plouffe and Daley are doubling down on running on rhetoric over real action on jobs.

In Sargent’s piece, an SAO describing what David Plouffe and Bill Daley think says they do favor a “confrontational rhetorical approach” on jobs.

Plouffe and Daley both favor a confrontational rhetorical approach that will blame Republicans for opposing any and all job creation efforts for purely political reasons; both are leading internal boosters of a message that accuses Republicans of putting party before country.

“Plouffe and Daley have been big proponents of the sort of messaging that you saw from the President’s Country before Party speech in Michigan,” the official says.

In that speech, Obama implicitly accused Republicans of opposing an array of job-creation proposals because of their refusal “to put the country ahead of party,” adding that they would “rather see their opponents lose than see America win.”

To which Sargent provides this push-back. Note where he refers to actions (which I’ve labeled with an “A”) and rhetoric (which I’ve labeled with an “R”):

If this speech’s message is what Plouffe and Daley favor, this is a bit at odds with the public picture that’s emerged. The Times story suggested that the Plouffe/Daley camp worries that any ambitious proposals [A] that seem designed only reveal the GOP as obstructionist will be seen as mere “speeches” by independents [R]. The story also suggests Plouffe and Daley think continuing to reach deficit-reduction compromises [A] with Republicans will prove more politically effective than drawing a sharp contrast with the GOP on the economy [R]. But if Plouffe and Daley favor a continued effort to cast the GOP as blocking economic improvements for political reasons [R], that complicates the picture somewhat and suggests that the latter, too, will be central to the reelection campaign.

Sargent’s push-back mixes actual policy measures with rhetoric about policy measures.

In fact, the NYT article itself does the same:

As the economy worsens, President Obama and his senior aides are considering whether to adopt a more combative approach on economic issues, seeking to highlight substantive differences [R] with Republicans in Congress and on the campaign trail rather than continuing to pursue elusive compromises [A], advisers to the president say.

Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, David Plouffe, and his chief of staff, William M. Daley, want him to maintain a pragmatic strategy of appealing to independent voters by advocating ideas that can pass Congress [A], even if they may not have much economic impact. These include free trade agreements and improved patent protections for inventors.

But others, including Gene Sperling, Mr. Obama’s chief economic adviser, say public anger over the debt ceiling debate has weakened Republicans and created an opening for bigger ideas like tax incentives for businesses that hire more workers [A], according to Congressional Democrats who share that view. Democrats are also pushing the White House to help homeowners facing foreclosure.

Even if the ideas cannot pass Congress, they say, the president would gain a campaign issue by pushing for them.[R]


So far, most signs point to a continuation of the nonconfrontational approach — better to do something than nothing — that has defined this administration. Mr. Obama and his aides are skeptical that voters will reward bold proposals if those ideas do not pass Congress. It is their judgment that moderate voters want tangible results rather than speeches.

That is, the article portrayed a fight over whether to pursue policies that will pass and therefore rhetorically set Obama up as someone who has achieved results (regardless of whether those results have anything to do with job creation), or whether the Administration should pursue policies that would if they passed do something about jobs, whether or not they actually would pass, because doing so would rhetorically set up Republicans as obstructionists. It was about how policy drives rhetoric.

But the Plouffe-Daley response to Sargent mentioned only rhetoric, referring to “confrontational rhetorical approach,” “message,” “messaging.”

Ultimately Sargent (without noting that the Plouffe-Daley response didn’t purport to make claims about policy, though I didn’t note that either until I wrote this post) ends by just hoping that the policy will follow the rhetoric.

But if the Obama team is serious about drawing a sharp contrast — as the senior official insists is the case — we can at least hope that the policies will follow the rhetoric.

But sitting back and hoping that policies follow the rhetoric ignores that Obama’s speech itself–the one Plouffe-Daley tell us to look at–is an indication of how the Administration will translate policy into rhetoric.

So here’s what Obama had to say about his own policies last Thursday:

  • He gave a very weak nod to the government’s willingness to “invest in the research and technology that holds so much promise for jobs and growth,” but never explicitly notes that the government provided grants that led directly to jobs like those at JCI
  • He boasted about renegotiating CAFE standards (emphasizing he did that without Congress)

That’s it–those are the only policy successes Obama pointed to (which implicitly points out that the debate as portrayed in the NYT leaves aside a third possibility, to run on the policies–the ones that actually relate to jobs–Obama already passed). Significantly, Obama made no mention of saving the auto industry, no mention of health insurance reform, no mention of defending US companies against unfair foreign competitors, all of which could have arguably fit this theme (I don’t think health insurance reform as passed does much for any but health industry jobs, but Obama is supposed to believe that). In his speech today, he apparently called out aid to states, which fits the theme too.

The point is, in the speech Plouffe-Daley point to as precisely the tack they want to take, Obama didn’t even claim clear credit for the jobs his policies had the most direct role in creating, which would have created the largest contrast with Republicans (particularly given what Republicans have claimed about this particular factory).

Now, Sargent sees the choice to ignore a number of clear policy successes–including, largely, the one most significant to the speech Obama was making–as nothing more than a conservative policy frame, all the while hoping Obama will embrace some good policies going further. But this entire discussion is about how to use policy successes and strategy to drive electoral rhetoric. And the Obama Administration chose to give freedom the most credit for creating the JCI jobs, not to claim clear credit themselves!

That’s not a frame. That’s a disavowal of a policy choice, one that has been successful in the past, but one that also might disrupt the claims of a top government official who believes that, “It would be political folly to make the argument that government spending equals jobs.” It’s a decision (presumably conscious, particularly given that Obama has claimed credit for this in the past) not to mention how successful the most meaningful job creation policy, government investments, would be.

And put that disavowal in the context of the speech (again, the one Plouffe-Daley point to as the embodiment of their crack reelection strategy). Here’s the entire context of where Obama introduces the “country before party” idea Plouffe-Daley point to as their way to heighten contradictions with Republicans.

Unfortunately, what we’ve seen in Washington the last few months has been the worst kind of partisanship, the worst kind of gridlock –- and that gridlock has undermined public confidence and impeded our efforts to take the steps we need for our economy.

It’s made things worse instead of better. So what I want to say to you, Johnson Controls, is:  There is nothing wrong with our country.  There is something wrong with our politics.  (Applause.)  There’s something wrong with our politics that we need to fix.

We know there are things we can do right now that will help accelerate growth and job creation –- that will support the work going on here at Johnson Controls, here in Michigan, and all across America.  We can do some things right now that will make a difference.  We know there are things we have to do to erase a legacy of debt that hangs over the economy.  But time and again, we’ve seen partisan brinksmanship get in the way -– as if winning the next election is more important than fulfilling our responsibilities to you and to our country.  This downgrade you’ve been reading about could have been entirely avoided if there had been a willingness to compromise in Congress.  (Applause.)  See, it didn’t happen because we don’t have the capacity to pay our bills -– it happened because Washington doesn’t have the capacity to come together and get things done.  It was a self-inflicted wound.  (Applause.)

That’s why people are frustrated.  Maybe you hear it in my voice — that’s why I’m frustrated.  Because you deserve better.  You guys deserve better.  (Applause.)

All of you, from the CEO down, are working hard, taking care of your kids or your parents –- maybe both.  You’re living within your means.  You may be trying to save for your child’s college education or saving for retirement.  You’re donating to the church or the food pantry.  You’re trying to help the community.  You’re doing your part.  You’re living up to your responsibilities.  It’s time for Washington to do the same -– to match your resolve, and to match your decency, and to show the same sense of honor and discipline.  That is not too much to ask.  That’s what the American people are looking for.  (Applause.) [my emphasis]

That is, that “country before party idea” is originally pitched as the solution to the jobs crisis, but then Obama elaborates on what that solution is and it’s … more deficit cutting. And when, later in the speech, they repeat the “country before party” idea in the specific context of jobs, they do so to introduce the policies that won’t really do much about jobs (though I’d be happy for highway investment). After which, Obama returns to deficit cutting again.

Plouffe-Daley told Sargent very clearly where to look for their take, what they mean by “confrontational rhetoric.” And it turns out that rather than boasting of the jobs he did create, it consists of Obama just whining about the deficit some more.

The Administration’s Lame Plan on the Economy? It Gets Worse

You know that article portraying the White House paralysis in the face of 9.1% unemployment? Should they do nothing and run on the promise of more deficit and entitlement cuts in a second term? Or should they do almost nothing, like renaming the Department of Commerce “The Department of Confidence Fairies”?

It gets still worse:

There’s an article in today’s NYT on the economic debate within the White House.  The print version—not the online one—contains this quote from an admin official:

It would be political folly to make the argument that government spending equals jobs.”

Really?  I mean, I get the reluctance, and certainly the “spending=jobs” frame, while essentially correct, may not be the right way to frame it.

But in fact, the best way to get people back to work right now, with consumers weakened and investment on the sidelines is through more government spending…it should be targeted and temporary, but jeez, the President himself has been making this point, and correctly pointing out that R’s are blocking him on it. [my emphasis]

The President did an event on Thursday in a shiny new factory that owes its existence to government spending. The jobs at that factory are some of the best jobs created in the last decade, because they’re innovative, they include high end jobs in a new segment, and (if the President doesn’t send them all away with trade deals) they make us competitive internationally.

But rather than actually claim credit for those jobs–which Obama was willing to do a year ago–he now says “freedom” created those jobs, not government spending.

Still More Deficit Reduction and “Department of Competitiveness”?!?!?

Calculated Risk says most of what needs to be said about this article describing the debate within the White House over whether or not to “pivot to jobs” after all.

Tax incentives are the “bigger idea“? It sounds like the debate is between doing nothing and doing very little.

But it’s worth looking at two parts of this argument that appear to be new.

The article reports the Administration is considering proposing great economic policies that it would deliver in a second term. And those ideas? More neoliberal policies that won’t actually create jobs.

The issue is being framed by the 2012 election. Administration officials, frustrated by the intransigence of House Republicans, have increasingly concluded that the best thing Mr. Obama can do for the economy may be winning a second term, with a mandate to advance his ideas on deficit reduction, entitlement changes, housing policy and other issues.

So the side currently winning this debate is not only arguing against a pivot to jobs right now, but arguing it should continue its obsessive focus on the deficit and “entitlement” cuts through a second term.

And housing policy?!?!? This Administration wants to run on a promise to implement more housing policy, an area in which it has thus far achieved unmitigated failure?

But way at the end of the article, there is what I believe is a completely new policy, one which betrays just how misguided this Administration’s economic policy has become. The new big idea? Renaming the Department of Commerce.

The administration may also merge the Department of Commerce, the Office of the United States Trade Representative and some economic divisions at the State Department into a new agency, administration officials said. Possible names include the Department of Jobs or the Department of Competitiveness.

As bad as the suggestion that simply rearranging the Titanic’s deck chairs might be a great new idea is, the underlying implications of this proposed policy change are worse. Someone on Obama’s team thinks that by merging the entity that negotiates deals to send our jobs overseas with the Department of Commerce and those parts of the State Department that serve the interests of Monsanto rather than the American people, you’ll end up with more Jobs or better Competitiveness.

Atrios is right. We’re doomed.

David Plouffe, Still Believe People Are Feeling Better about Economy?

David Plouffe was at yesterday’s disappointing “Freedom Rally” at Johnson Controls. Aside from being amazed (as I often am when I see politicos in person) at how short he is, seeing him also made me newly cranky about Plouffe’s comments last month about people feeling better about their own economic situations.

The average American does not view the economy through the prism of GDP or unemployment rates or even monthly jobs numbers.

In fact, those terms very rarely pass their lips. So it’s a very one-dimensional view. They view the economy through their own personal prism. You see, people’s — people’s attitude towards their own personal financial situation has actually improved over time. You know, they’re still concerned about the long-term economic future of the country, but it’s things like “My sister was unemployed for six months and was living in my basement and now she has a job.”

There’s a — a “help wanted” sign. You know, the local diner was a little busier this week. Home Depot was a little busier. These are the ways people talk about the economy. [my emphasis]

As I pointed out then, people actually weren’t feeling better about the economy, which seemed like a point you ought to be cognizant of if you’re trying to get a President re-elected based on improving consumer confidence.

Particularly when consumer confidence is at Jimmy Carter levels of malaise.

Confidence among U.S. consumers plunged in August to the lowest level since May 1980, adding to concern that weak employment gains and volatility in the stock market will prompt households to retrench.

The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment slumped to 54.9 from 63.7 the prior month. The gauge was projected to decline to 62, according to the median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey.

The biggest one-week slump in stocks since 2008 and the threat of default on the nation’s debt may have exacerbated consumers’ concerns as unemployment hovers above 9 percent and companies are hesitant to hire. Rising pessimism poses a risk household spending will cool further, hindering a recovery that Federal Reserve policy makers said this week was already advancing “considerably slower” than projected.

“The mood is very depressed,” said Chris Christopher, an economist at IHS Global Insight Inc. in Lexington, Massachusetts. “Consumers are very fatigued and very uncertain. In the short term, people are going to pull back on spending.”

Of course, when the President’s team decides that, rather than go and point out that the government can and has done something about jobs (and proposes to do more), it should blame Congress and pretend that freedom creates jobs all by itself, it doesn’t really inspire confidence.

As Paul Krugman says, what we need is someone to go out and staunch the bleeding, not someone to lecture more about getting the deficit in order (as Obama also did yesterday).

For the fact is that right now the economy desperately needs a short-run fix. When you’re bleeding profusely from an open wound, you want a doctor who binds that wound up, not a doctor who lectures you on the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle as you get older. When millions of willing and able workers are unemployed, and economic potential is going to waste to the tune of almost $1 trillion a year, you want policy makers who work on a fast recovery, not people who lecture you on the need for long-run fiscal sustainability.


What would a real response to our problems involve? First of all, it would involve more, not less, government spending for the time being — with mass unemployment and incredibly low borrowing costs, we should be rebuilding our schools, our roads, our water systems and more. It would involve aggressive moves to reduce household debt via mortgage forgiveness and refinancing. And it would involve an all-out effort by the Federal Reserve to get the economy moving, with the deliberate goal of generating higher inflation to help alleviate debt problems.

Mind you, just from watching last night’s debate via Twitter, I recognize that most of the alternatives would be far, far worse. But to prevent one of those yahoos from having a change, the Obama Administration really ought to be looking at what works–investing in factories like JCI–rather than lecturing more about deficits and freedom.

David Plouffe: ALSO Wrong on Consumer Confidence

enjoy consumer confidence

enjoy consumer confidence by Shira Golding,

Greg Sargent has a post arguing that complaints about David Plouffe’s comments about unemployment are being distorted.

It seems Plouffe was actually asked a question about whether and how the unemployment rate would impact the Presidential race. He replied by claiming that the number itself wouldn’t impact people’s votes. In other words, Plouffe himself didn’t initially establish the political context. Plouffe then launched into a discussion about how the anemic recovery is experienced by people on a personal level. It was in that context that Plouffe reiterated that people won’t vote based on the numer alone.

You can accuse Plouffe of being wrong in claiming that people won’t vote based on the percentage of unemployed — I tend to think it may loom in people’s minds. You can argue that it was a misstep in that the quote does sound tone-deaf when reproduced without the surrounding context, and it’s understandable why people would see it as insensitive when viewed without that context.

But as Dave Weigel notes, the quote in isolation is widely being distorted in the media as a sign that Obama’s advisers have their heads in the sand about the economy.

Except that the transcript Sargent includes actually proves that Plouffe does have his head in the sand about the economy. After explaining that people don’t think of the economy in terms of unemployment numbers or GDP (I agree), he claims that people are actually feeling better about the economy.

The average American does not view the economy through the prism of GDP or unemployment rates or even monthly jobs numbers.

In fact, those terms very rarely pass their lips. So it’s a very one-dimensional view. They view the economy through their own personal prism. You see, people’s — people’s attitude towards their own personal financial situation has actually improved over time. You know, they’re still concerned about the long-term economic future of the country, but it’s things like “My sister was unemployed for six months and was living in my basement and now she has a job.”

There’s a — a “help wanted” sign. You know, the local diner was a little busier this week. Home Depot was a little busier. These are the ways people talk about the economy. [my emphasis]

Problem is, there’s a way to measure people’s attitude about their own personal situation, and it is not improving. Two key measures of consumer confidence, at least, show people’s attitude about their own personal situation has declined in the last month.

The consumer-sentiment gauge fell to 71.5 at the end of June from 74.3 in May. A preliminary June reading had pegged sentiment at 71.8.

The sentiment reading, which covers how consumers view their personal finances as well as business and buying conditions, averaged about 87 in the year before the start of the most recent recession.


Earlier this week, a separate report showed that consumer confidence fell in June to the worst level in eight months on concerns about employment and income.

The Conference Board’s consumer-confidence index fell to 58.5 for the month from an upwardly revised 61.7 in May. Generally, when the economy is growing at a good clip, confidence readings are at 90 and above.

Now, consumer confidence may well turn around, and it has been going up with small hints of a turnaround. But it is not up right now–the Conference Board survey is worse than it has been for months.

Look, I’m not trying to make it easy for Mitt Romney to attack Barack Obama. But at every turn, the Administration does seem deaf to the complaints of ordinary people. Mitt’s no more in touch with those complaints, I’m sure. But that doesn’t mean Obama and his aides don’t have to start listening to the pain of real people.

David Plouffe’s “Same Old War Horses”

Scarecrow, Digby, and Jon Walker rightly took David Plouffe’s promises that a 9% unemployment rate won’t hurt Obama’s reelection chances to task.

But I’m at least as appalled by this part of Plouffe’s statement:

The White House’s top political adviser, downplaying the significance of the unemployment rate in the 2012 election, said the Republican candidates are offering the same policies that caused the economic crisis and targeted one potential opponent — Mitt Romney.

“So all of them are basically just bringing out the same old war horses,” senior adviser David Plouffe said yesterday at a Bloomberg Breakfast in Washington. “Let Wall Street kind of run amok, cut taxes for the wealthy, starve investment in things like education, research and development.”

Let Wall Street run amok. Check.

Cut taxes for the wealthy. Check.

And while Obama hasn’t as obviously starved investment in education and R&D (indeed, the stimulus he doesn’t like to talk about increased investments in both), by insisting on deficit reduction at the same time as states have had (or pretended they had to) cut education and R&D to balance their budgets, he has allowed such cuts to happen on his watch.

It troubles me a bit that David Plouffe doesn’t even see the irony of his statement.  Sure, the Republicans will be running on all those things. But so will, to a large extent, Obama.

David Plouffe Points to Events in November to Prove “Base” Is Happy in December

Picture 168David Plouffe fed Ari Melber a whole bunch of bullshit in this interview defending Obama’s health care reform capitulation. But I’m particularly amused by this aspect of his argument.

Rank and file Obama supporters still have faith in the health care strategy, Plouffe insists, a conclusion he reached by listening to the “base” supporters who donated time and money to Obama.

“I’ve been out on a book tour, I’ve seen a lot of people–the base I view are the people who gave money and volunteered in the campaign. Now, there are plenty of people who are commentators who did that too, and I thank them for that, but the heartbeat of the campaign and the Obama organization are the people out there I’ve seen the past few weeks in St Louis, in Kansas City, in Philadelphia,” he said. (The Nation interview was part of Plouffe’s tour for “The Audacity to Win.” Plouffe also highlighted that literally two million people have taken some volunteer action for health care since Obama’s inauguration.

“It’s easy to take potshots, but I’m very closely in contact with the people who make up the heartbeat of the ground level of Obama for America, who are still out there,” he said. “We’ve had a couple million people out there volunteering for health care, quietly in communities, helping maintain support. It’s different from a campaign; you’re not out there saying, ‘Register eight voters today.'” Later he elaborated, “Is it the same intensity as the campaign? Of course not… I quite frankly am thrilled that over two million people, which is a lot, have done something on health care, meaning: they’ve gone out and knocked on doors; they visited a congressional office; they helped organize a press conference. It’s happened in all 50 states, and we think it’s a small part of why health care will get done.”

So Plouffe refutes Markos’ argument that the party has “a lack of understanding of just how pissed the base is at this so-called reform,” by pointing to two things: the enthusiasm of the people he’s talked to while on book tour over “the past few weeks,” and the two million people who have been engaging in grassroots lobbying through Organizing for America.

As a threshold matter, Plouffe invokes book events that happened on November 20, November 19, and November 5 to support his claim that grassroots Obama supporters are not pissed about Obama’s capitulation to Joe Lieberman on December 14. But it’s worse than that. Plouffe hasn’t had a book event since December 10 (though he’s doing one tomorrow in Delaware, and I hear he takes feedback he gets at book events very seriously, if you happen to be in Delaware…). In other words, Plouffe is claiming that all the enthusiasm he saw on the road before Obama capitulated to Lieberman proves that the base is okay that Obama capitulated to Lieberman.

Then there’s the OFA claim. Plouffe says that the sheer number of Obama volunteers who have been fighting to support health care reform prove that the base still supports Obama’s approach to health care reform.

There’s a big problem with that. Though OFA did send out an activist blast yesterday, for much of the time these OFA volunteers were working their ass off for health care, the public option was part of the plan. Read more