Sunday, 6 January 2008

Ho hum

Vacation (of a sort) continues. I flipped between the NFL playoffs, some Ashley Judd movie that was on CBS, and the ABC/Facebook debates some last night, and probably paid more attention to the Republicans than the Democrats—I wish I could say it was because I changed my registration to Republican before I left, although that is true, but really it had more to do with my exceedingly low tolerance for listening to Hillary Clinton (there’s your likability problem) and my much higher tolerance for Ashley Judd and John Madden. The competitiveness of the Jaguars-Steelers game probably was a factor as well.

Much is being said about the Obama boomlet and the gushing reaction he has received from across the political spectrum; the most notable to me was that originating from Joe Scarborough, a guy from a different ideological planet than Obama. Does Obama pull away Republicans from Huckabee in a general election matchup? Like James Joyner, I’m skeptical—after all, I’ve read The American Voter and 47 subsequent years’ worth of political science research that says that partisanship is fairly sticky and it’s the primary determinant of vote choice—but elections are won at the margins, not based on the behavior of the bulk of voters. Obama would also be more likely to arouse opposition from Republicans in Congress when he tacks too far to the left; the behavior of the GOP with a Republican in the White House who’s significantly more fiscally conservative than Mike Huckabee suggests that Reagan’s 11th Commandment is more valued by the bulk of the congressional GOP than fiscal sanity. (I’d probably vote for Obama over Huckabee… but then again I voted for John Kerry in 2004, so I’m probably not representative of the typical Republican.)

Interestingly enough, both Alex Tabarrok and Greg Mankiw appear to give the “most economically literate” endorsement from the Democratic debate to Obama. Then again, on any stage containing John Edwards, the threshold for economic literacy is pretty damn low.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Obama continuing to win the economic literacy debate

As noted previously on these shores, Barack Obama has—contrary to his reputation as the “most liberal senator” ginned up by the National Journal—generally made proposals that make economic sense. His opposition to the hare-brained “gas tax holiday” scheme is another point in his—or at least his economic advisors’—favor.

That said, I will quibble with Dan Drezner’s half-suggestion that Obama run with the “it’ll only save you $30” talking point. My general feeling is that when politicians have belittled dollar figures in the past—most notably when the first $300 tax rebate was being proposed way-back-when (2002?)—voters outside the beltway bubble generally seem to think that they have better ideas about how to spend the money than folks in Washington do, especially when they're not making a six-figure government salary. That said, I think the talking point works better when it’s a relatively non-transparent tax like the 18.4¢/gal federal gasoline excise tax that generally isn’t broken out on receipts rather than a check that shows up in the mail.