Monday, November 1, 2010

The REAL Lesson From This Election

**We interrupt our regularly scheduled blog with this special election year commentary. In case you miss it this time, the message will be repeated two years from now, though the names of the political parties will likely be reversed.**

This campaign season has seen a lot of chest-thumping and mud-slinging. The Republicans by all accounts are poised to win back most of the congressional seats they lost two years ago, and most likely will take over the House of Representatives.

If this occurs it will not be a mandate to return to the policies and practices of the past, nor will it represent a massive endorsement of the ill-informed, simplistic, extreme views of the Tea Party.

It will be a cry from the electorate to make our government work. I'm writing this just before Election Day, and the most recent polls are very clear -- though the Republicans are going to gain seats in congress, the Republican Party is at historic lows in popularity. Rather than endorsing Republican policies and philosophy, people are desperate for a change that will lead to a sense of stability and progress rather than gridlock and confusion. As Jim Lehrer recently commented, "... polling shows that people also want both sides to work together. They don't want any more gridlock. They don't want any more stalemates. So, if the Republicans take control, they're going to have to work with the Democrats, the Democrats who are already there are going to have to work with the Republicans, or this whole thing isn't going to work."

Polls also indicate a very sobering disconnect between opinion and fact that may make the Republican victory short-lived. According to a recent article in Bloomberg News, " a two-to-one margin, likely voters in the Nov. 2 midterm elections think taxes have gone up, the economy has shrunk, and the billions lent to banks as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program won’t be recovered." But these beliefs are demonstrably wrong:
"The Obama administration has cut taxes — largely for the middle class — by $240 billion since taking office Jan. 20, 2009. A program aimed at families earning less than $150,000 that was contained in the stimulus package lowered the tax burden for 95 percent of working Americans by $116 billion, or about $400 per year for individuals and $800 for married couples. Other measures include breaks for college education, moderate-income families and the unemployed and incentives to promote renewable energy...Still, the poll shows the message hasn’t gotten through to Americans, especially middle-income voters. By 52 percent to 19 percent, likely voters say federal income taxes have gone up for the middle class in the past two years.

In an October report to Congress, released as the Troubled Asset Relief Program turned 2 years old, the Treasury said it had recovered most of the $245 billion spent on the Wall Street bank part of the plan and expects to turn a $16 billion profit. But in the poll, 60 percent of respondents say they believe most of the money to the banks is lost, and only 33 percent say most of the funds will be recovered.

Separate from the aid for the Wall Street banks, the Treasury says the payouts for insurers such as New York-based American International Group will end with a small loss on the investment, as will the bailout for automakers. Only assistance to mortgage lenders, projected to reach about $45 billion, won't be repaid, the Treasury says.

The perceptions of voters about the performance of the economy are also at odds with official data.

The recession that began in December 2007 officially ended in June 2009. In the past year, the economy has grown 3 percent, and it is expected to show improvement in the second quarter of this year. A year and a half after stocks hit their post-financial crisis low on March 9, 2009, the benchmark Standard & Poor's 500 Index has risen 75 percent, and it's up 15 percent this year.

But voters aren't seeing the better climate: 61 percent of the 1,000 respondents in the poll — which has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points — say the economy is shrinking this year, compared with 33 percent who say it is growing."
Both parties are responsible for this confusion -- the Republicans for their successful obfuscation of the facts, and the Democrats for failing to clearly and forcefully communicate the true record.

The real lesson from this election, then, is that in two years the fortunes of a party can change completely. And changes based on mistaken beliefs may be particularly vulnerable to reversal.


PaddleDoc said...

Reality never wins!

AKJ said...

Great piece -- thanks for writing it. I will pass it on to my aging siblings.