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How Liberal is President Obama?

obama-frownMore from political scientist Keith Poole at the Voteview blog:

We find that President Obama is the most ideologically moderate Democratic president in the post-war period, with a first dimension DW-NOMINATE Common Space score of -0.329. President Lyndon Johnson, the second-most moderate Democratic president in this period, has a score of -0.345. President Obama’s ideological position is estimated from his “votes” (statements of support or opposition) on 282 congressional roll call votes. This amount is somewhat low; for example, President George W. Bush “voted” 453 times during his last term in office. However, it is adequate to recover his latent ideological score.

Among members of the 112th Congress, President Obama is ideologically closest to Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA), whose score is -0.328. President Obama is also proximate to Senators Bob Casey (D-PA, -0.332), Kent Conrad (D-ND, -0.326), the recently deceased Daniel Inouye (D-HI, -0.331), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH, -0.317). Among Democratic Congressional leaders, President Obama is to the left of Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV, -0.304), and to the right of House Minority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD, -0.395), Senate Majority Whip Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL, -0.401), and House Majority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA, -0.530). Interestingly, President Obama has a nearly identical score to former Senate Democratic Leader Sen. Tim Daschle (D-SD, -0.328), whom President Obama had initially nominated for Secretary of Health and Human Services after controversy over unpaid taxes.

Using their metric,* which looks at issue where a given president has taken a clear stand (and which therefore excludes rhetorical or symbolic pronouncements), we get the following going back to Truman:

It is worth noting that Obama’s predecessor was the most conservative in the post-war period, which is relevant to any short-term comparisons of ideological comparison, given the short-term perceptions that shape our politics.

The write-up goes on to note:

Our results may seem surprising to those who consider President Obama among the most — even the most — liberal president of the post-war era. We would respond with a couple of observations. First, President Obama has tacked to the right on many national security and foreign policy issues. For example, President Obama — who once opposed FISA (The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act ) — recently supported and signed legislation a five-year extension of the program. Drone strikes — certainly not a source of liberal enthusiasm, even if vocal opposition from the left has been absent under President Obama — have been central to foreign policy during the Obama administration. Furthermore, while foreign policy issues come up relatively infrequently in congressional roll call voting, they constitute a greater proportion of the votes on which the president (i.e., the commander in chief) announces a position.

All of this is simply more evidence to suggest that the notion that Obama is especially liberal (let alone a socialist of some stripe) is an indefensible position to take from an empirical point of view.

Of course, as I noted in a related post yesterday, one of the reasons that many of the president’s partisan opponents make the claims that they do is not because Obama is more left-leaning than recent Democrats, but it is because Republicans have become more right-leaning.  In other words, the relative vantage point between the parties at the moment is due not to a leftward lurch by the Democrats, but by a rightward move by the the Republicans.  At least this is what the date suggests.

*They use the CQ Presidential Support Scores

Related Posts:

About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor and Chair of Political Science at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. He is the author of Voting Amid Violence: Electoral Democracy in Colombia and is currently working on a comparative study of the US to 29 other democracies. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging at PoliBlog since 2003. Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. C. Clavin says:

    No.
    He’s a Soshulist dammit.
    And he is coming to take my guns away!!!!

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 29 Thumb down 5

  2. Mikey says:

    He’s certainly been less liberal than I expected he’d be. Even his most liberal achievement, “Obamacare,” isn’t nearly as liberal as universal health care implementations in other countries. Even his executive actions on gun control aren’t that liberal.

    I consider him pretty much on the level of Bill Clinton–a moderate Democrat who is generally “in the middle” domestically and pragmatic on foreign policy.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 1

  3. Nick says:

    but it is because Republicans have become more right-leaning.

    Bush denial.

    If you go by current conservative opinion (see NRO, hotair, etc.) they deny that GW Bush was a conservative. Then it follows that if Obama is to the left of a liberal Bush, he must be a communist.

    Why does OTB not stand up to this Republican narrative when it’s demonstrably false?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  4. @Nick:

    Why does OTB not stand up to this Republican narrative when it’s demonstrably false?

    What is it that you want done? Doesn’t this post state that Bush was the most rightward president in the post-war period?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  5. Nick says:

    Yes, this post is excellent.

    I’d have preferred if you’d been more skeptical of Republican talking points and Mitt Romney prior to the election. I’ll see if I can find some examples later. Cheers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  6. @Nick: By me personally, or at the blog in general?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  7. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Lyndon Johnson pushed the Great Society, the War On Poverty, and the civil rights movement. And he’s “moderate,” more conservative than JFK or Bill Clinton.

    Riiiiiight.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 24

  8. stonetools says:

    The Overton window has moved so far to the right that Obama was considered “socialist” for passing a national health insurance scheme that was to the right of one Nixon proposed in 1971.

    Says it all, really.

    Ted Kennedy refused to support Nixon’s plan, because he thought they would get single payer the next time the Democrats regained the Presidency (admittedly, the biggest mistake he ever made).

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 2

  9. michael reynolds says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:
    Thank you for admitting that you find civil rights ‘liberal.’

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 37 Thumb down 1

  10. @Jenos Idanian #13: I do sympathize, since understanding the analysis and mounting an actual critique would require a bunch of reading and thinking.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 32 Thumb down 1

  11. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Sorry, I’ve always sucked at “pick your conclusion, then shape your research to support it” arguments.

    @michael reynolds: Yes, the civil rights movement was driven by liberals in the 1960’s. Hell, it was driven by classical liberals — Republicans — in the 1860’s. I’ve never said they were wrong about it then.

    But the modern “civil rights” movement has little to do with the movement of the 1960’s. Dr. King, for example, argued for equality, against quotas, against segregation (even self-segregation — he’d most likely oppose the racial gerrymandering that gives us “majority-minority” Congressional districts), and kept a veritable arsenal in his home.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 23

  12. Carol Sorenson says:

    I’m not sure what you’re smoking, but a drug test is probably in order.

    According to shadowstats.com, the federal govt’s annual deficit increased 30% year-over-year from 2011 to 2012. The annual deficit, including the net present value of entitlement liabilities, was $6.9 trillion in 2012.

    Bush was a wild spender, but no president has been more irresponsible with tax dollars than obama.

    Look at the Stimulus, welfare, food stamps, and other redistributive programs.

    Look at Obamacare, a massive new entitlement when our existing entitlements are broke.

    The deficit trajectory we’re on means that the entire budget will be consumed by interest and principal on the debt in 10 years, if interest rates return to historical norms (about 5%).

    If real inflation sets in, however, it’s game over.

    You people really need to start with some remedial math skills.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 40

  13. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Actually, let me give that approach a try.

    Statistically speaking, Obama is the least popular president ever, in that more Americans voted against him than any other president in history. The argument that he has any kind of mandate is completely absurd.

    You know, I think I see the seductive power of that approach…

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 26

  14. @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Sorry, I’ve always sucked at “pick your conclusion, then shape your research to support it” arguments.

    Odd, that is usually what your arguments look like.

    However, my point would be that you need to go and understand what the metrics mean and how they are used to make a real critique here, not just going by your feelings.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 28 Thumb down 0

  15. @Jenos Idanian #13: You are spouting nonsense.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 0

  16. Mikey says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Statistically speaking, Obama is the least popular president ever, in that more Americans voted against him than any other president in history.

    By that reasoning, he is simultaneously the most popular president ever, because more Americans voted for him than for any other president in history.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 36 Thumb down 0

  17. stonetools says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    You are spouting nonsense.

    Save yourself some time and make that a macro for responding to Jenos, JKB, and superdestroyer comments.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

  18. Dave says:

    @Carol Sorenson: Isn’t it weird how most of that debt accumulation has come in response to the financial crisis which kept us out of a depression. And the downturn in federal spending since the Republicans took the house has caused a slowdown in recovery. However, the US was and still is fairing better than austerity driven European nations. The other large majority of his reckless spending comes from the unfunded wars and appropriations from 8 years under Bush. Liberal policies to clean up “conservative” problems. He has to be a socialist.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 1

  19. Carol Sorenson says:

    @Dave: “Liberal policies to clean up conservative policies”?

    Really?

    Tell me which policies, authorized by the Constitution, were abused by bureaucrats in Washington to cause fiscal disaster?

    Constitutional conservatism, of the sort espoused by Coolidge, Goldwater, Reagan and the modern Tea Party, is AFAICT the only responsible movement in the nation.

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  20. Let's Be Free says:

    The obvious, comprehensible and straightforward way to measure degree of socialism is the degree to which the Federal Government controls societal resources. So by the numbers (% of GDP) Obama is by far the most socialist ever, non-war President. When you factor in his indirect controls, such as through Obamacare, new aggressive jurisidiction claims of the EPA and the long arm of Dodd/Frank, and the increased reach of ” independent’ agencies (e.g., the Fed’s foray into QE) the real Barack Obama is, by far, the most socialist president ever. I wondered whether I should accuse you of financial illiteracy or blindness and then realized that a false choice. You are both.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 23

  21. stonetools says:

    @Carol Sorenson:

    You people really need to start with some remedial math skills.

    Heh. Amazing projection, that.

    Meanwhile, in the real world, the deficit is actually shrinking, at the fastest place since WW2.

    I’m honestly wondering if conservatives are getting MORE stupid over time. I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but the evidence is there.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 0

  22. Dave Schuler says:

    This finding supports a point I’ve been making for years, namely that center-left is about as far as it goes in the U. S. Senate. More support: when he was a senator, Barack Obama had among the highest ADA ratings in the Senate. In terms of national politics that translates into center-left.

    I do have one question about the methodology, however. Is it realistic that presidents’ ideological leanings would not vary during their presidencies? That sounds like a construction issue to me.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  23. Dave Schuler says:

    @Let’s Be Free:

    Two words: automatic stabilizers. Your model fails to take into account the role of automatic stabilizers, measures that were in place before any given president took office.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  24. C. Clavin says:

    @ Carol…
    You need to learn the difference between deficit and debt…then get back to us.
    Bush left a deficit…it has remained essentially unchanged year after year. The debt increase equals the Bush deficit x the number of years.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  25. Rick Almeida says:

    @Carol Sorenson:

    Tell me which policies, authorized by the Constitution, were abused by bureaucrats in Washington to cause fiscal disaster?

    Please list the policies specifically authorized by the Constitution.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  26. Nick says:

    I did a google search of George W Bush from Oct.1 – Nov. 6, 2012 at site:outsidethe beltway.com. Your post “The Bush Question” is an intriguing start. You say

    I have long thought that this is the the question that a Republican nominee was going to have to answer going into this campaign cycle.

    Agree. The dog that didn’t bark is that your co-bloggers don’t seem to have headlined any posts about W in the month before the election, so my complaints are greater with them than you. The best Doug Mataconis can muster is a both sides do it

    As for Obama, and Bush, I think this gives us our best example yet of just how much each side of the political battle have dug themselves into their own trenches.

    George W. Bush was the archetypical Republican. Other than immigration (where his policies were blocked) Bush’s policies were loudly championed by the conservative intellectuals. Mainly, two unfunded wars, “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter” and fighting Islamists in Iraq and not Af/Pak. If you switch Iraq for Iran, Romney wanted to continue these Republican policies. He proposed to increase defense spending and attacked Obama for cutting Medicare. Dozens of posts at OTB headling Bush wouldn’t have been out of line. Going back to your solid post here.

    I would say that I am stunned that Romney is unable to adequately answer this question, but the truth is that I am not sure that the GOP has come to terms with what a disaster the Bush administration was.

    You don’t complete the thought. Did Bush incompetently execute conservative theory or is supply side Republican theory wrong?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  27. stonetools says:

    @Dave Schuler:

    Two words: automatic stabilizers. Your model fails to take into account the role of automatic stabilizers, measures that were in place before any given president took office.

    You should understand that before January 20, 2009, on that black day when the Kenyan usurper took office, there were no such things as unemployment compensation. Also too, the TARP bailout? The lame-stream media may have deceived you into believing that the economic collapse and the TARP bailout happened before the usurper took office, but they LIE!!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  28. steve says:

    “Tell me which policies, authorized by the Constitution, were abused by bureaucrats in Washington to cause fiscal disaster?”

    Bush prevented the attorneys general of the states from stopping the fraudulent banking that was going on. Fraud is a crime and stopping the states from stopping it was also unconstitutional.

    Steve

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  29. al-Ameda says:

    We find that President Obama is the most ideologically moderate Democratic president in the post-war period, with a first dimension DW-NOMINATE Common Space score of -0.329.

    But, 47% of the people believe that he is a Kenyan marxist. I think the real problem that non-reality based people have is that Obama is Black.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  30. Dave says:

    This is just another instance of the GOP projecting its irrational fears around. We got two Red Scares out of them. Then after the fall of the USSR, they were adrift until they found a new group to victimize after 9/11. So now Obama can be a projection of everything that has scared the party this century. He is a socialist (red scare,) Muslim (9/11) and Kenyan (because Africa has Muslims so it might as well be the middle east, also it does further their belief that an African would be anti-imperialist. Not because Imperialism is bad and the US has been classically bad at propping up foreign leaders, but due to the fact that it doesn’t mesh with neocon ideals.) So he obviously must be the most liberal because this Manchurian candidate is the sum of the collective fears on the right for the past century.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  31. Ben Wolf says:

    If quantity of deficit spending determines quantity of socialism, that would make Bill Clinton the most conservative president of the 20th Century. It would also mean Reagan was a Social Democrat to the left of Carter, Johnson and Kennedy.

    Gee, I had no idea.

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  32. @Ben Wolf: Well, one learns something new every day, yes?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  33. OzarkHillbilly says:

    All of this is simply more evidence to suggest that the notion that Obama is especially liberal (let alone a socialist of some stripe) is an indefensible position to take from an empirical point of view. BLACK.

    FTFY. Happy to be of service, call me any time.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  34. michael reynolds says:

    This is why I’ve called racism on the Tea Party and the GOP from early in the Obama administration. It wasn’t that no other president has ever been hated, but Obama was hated preemptively. He was hated before he’d done anything, and once he began doing things those things were moderate and yet the hatred only intensified.

    There was never a rational response to Obama from the right. It was a spittle-flecked rage-o-thon from day one, and that means the cause was not politics, or policy, or anything real.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 2

  35. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    Just come back from seeing The Hobbit, and I see that a lot of the usual suspects are as far into fantasy as Peter Jackson.

    For example, the notion that any and all criticism of Obama are based on race until… well, never. I’d find that laughable, but I think a lot of you are serious. Yeah, a lot of the RAAAAACIST!!! cries are insincere, aimed at shutting up Obama’s critics, but I think that there are a lot of True Believers here.

    Next… Clinton wasn’t a moderate. He was a pragmatist. He was as liberal as he could be. He tried going Hard Left right after being elected, but was quickly smacked down in 1994. Just like in Arkansas, but there he had to lose the election directly; instead, this time he just lost Congress.

    LBJ was also hard-core liberal, but he was also one amazingly skilled pol — probably the most savvy and persuasive president of the 20th century. (His tenure in Congress was probably a huge factor in his domestic successes.) He got a lot of his hard-left agenda passed.

    LBJ also had the benefit of following the martyrdom of JFK.

    Obama’s failures thus far have come from his lack of LBJ-like experience. He was a 2/3-term senator who never did much of anything in his 4 years, and before that was a state legislator who was infamous for his “present” votes, and not for actually doing anything. (For example, he voted “present” on a bill to increase penalties on teenagers who fired a gun in a school. Funny how he officially had no position on that measure…)

    Obama is considered a “moderate” on domestic issues only by seriously jiggering the metrics. That’s one hell of a thumb on that scale.

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  36. Ed Wallis says:

    What a queer analysis. So…are we to take from this that all those Dem Presidents – from Truman through Clinton – were all *at least* if not *even more* ideologically Marxist than Obama?!!?

    I. Don’t. Think. So.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 11

  37. @Jenos Idanian #13:

    RAAAAACIST!!!

    I always find that method of deploying the word a sure sign that the person deploying it does not even take the concept seriously. It always makes taking them seriously difficult, if not impossible.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 2

  38. @Ed Wallis: If you are deploying the term”Marxist”: in this conversation with a straight face, I would suggest that you do not know what the term means.

    I don’t know how else to put it.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 1

  39. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    For example, the notion that any and all criticism of Obama are based on race until… well, never. I’d find that laughable, but I think a lot of you are serious. Yeah, a lot of the RAAAAACIST!!! cries are insincere, aimed at shutting up Obama’s critics, but I think that there are a lot of True Believers here.

    Straw Man Alert.
    Who said “any and all criticism of Obama are based on race”?
    Answer: Only you.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  40. @Nick:

    You don’t complete the thought. Did Bush incompetently execute conservative theory or is supply side Republican theory wrong?

    In the post in question I was not evaluating Bush in terms of ideology, but in terms of results. Higher deficits and debt, two failed wars, economy on the brink of collapse, etc.

    Now, clearly, this suggests a failure of a number of ideological claims, including the one that states that tax cuts always equal economic growth and increased revenues.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  41. anjin-san says:

    @ Jenos

    Sorry, I’ve always sucked at “pick your conclusion, then shape your research to support it”

    As far as the rest of us can tell, you suck at pretty much everything, with the exception of being annoying.

    But the modern “civil rights” movement has little to do with the movement of the 1960′s.

    A remarkably stupid comment, even for you. Both have “equal protection under the law” at the core. Of course you have made you postion on equal protection for gays/lesbians clear. They should have it when the conservatives who despise them say they can, not today, as the constitution dictates.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 2

  42. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I always find that method of deploying the word a sure sign that the person deploying it does not even take the concept seriously.

    Absolutely right. I don’t.

    More specifically, I don’t take the arguments put forth above by stonetools, al-Ameda, Dave, and OzarkHillbilly seriously.

    Specifically:

    “You should understand that before January 20, 2009, on that black day when the Kenyan usurper took office…”

    “I think the real problem that non-reality based people have is that Obama is Black. ”

    “He is a socialist (red scare,) Muslim (9/11) and Kenyan (because Africa has Muslims so it might as well be the middle east, also it does further their belief that an African would be anti-imperialist. ”

    “All of this is simply more evidence to suggest that the notion that Obama is especially liberal (let alone a socialist of some stripe) is an indefensible position to take from an empirical point of view. BLACK.

    And just so professional hatemonger and sociopath michael reynolds doesn’t feel left out, let’s see how he rationalizes his hate-mongering…

    This is why I’ve called racism on the Tea Party and the GOP from early in the Obama administration. It wasn’t that no other president has ever been hated, but Obama was hated preemptively. He was hated before he’d done anything, and once he began doing things those things were moderate and yet the hatred only intensified.

    There was never a rational response to Obama from the right. It was a spittle-flecked rage-o-thon from day one, and that means the cause was not politics, or policy, or anything real.

    Just because everyone else chose to ignore the cries of RAAAAACIST above, doesn’t mean I have to pretend it didn’t happen as well…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 14

  43. al-Ameda says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    More specifically, I don’t take the arguments put forth above by stonetools, al-Ameda, Dave, and OzarkHillbilly seriously.

    Well, you should. Nearly half the Republican Party still believes the Birther assertion that Obama’s birth certificate was a forgery, and that Obama was ineligible to run for president and is not a legitimately elected president. Do you really think race has nothing to do with this?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  44. Kylopod says:

    Notice that this analysis puts LBJ to the right of Carter and Clinton. Whatever you think about that conclusion, it certainly conflicts with the conventional wisdom, where LBJ is thought of as the last true liberal in the White House, while Carter and Clinton are usually cited as examples of how the Democratic Party moved to the center after the 1960s. Of course everyone remembers how the left turned on LBJ because of Vietnam, but we usually consider him a solid liberal when it came to domestic policy. Yet a book I was reading recently about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s economic views actually referred to LBJ as a “fiscal conservative.” I realize that description is sure to cause reactions ranging from snickering to flat-out incomprehension among most conservatives today, but many on the left at the time (such as MLK) viewed even his “War on Poverty” as overly cautious and restrained. These nuances tend to be lost in most historical accounts.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  45. jukeboxgrad says:

    Related (Ezra Klein, 4/25/11, link):

    Obama revealed: A moderate Republican … President Obama, if you look closely at his positions, is a moderate Republican of the early 1990s.

    Which always reminds me that a famous Republican once said this:

    I think Bill Clinton was the best Republican president we’ve had in a while

    Link, link.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  46. michael reynolds says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    If only you were half as smart as you think you are, or half as dumb as everyone else thinks you are.

    So, you approve of the civil rights movement “then,” but now don’t even take the notion of racism seriously.

    Because? Because racism just magically disappeared? When was that? Do you have a date?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 2

  47. An Interested Party says:

    But the modern “civil rights” movement has little to do with the movement of the 1960′s. Dr. King, for example, argued for equality, against quotas, against segregation (even self-segregation — he’d most likely oppose the racial gerrymandering that gives us “majority-minority” Congressional districts), and kept a veritable arsenal in his home.

    While you’re praising Dr. King, don’t forget to mention that he was for reparations…while many of today’s conservatives try to use selective facts to argue that King was somehow in roughly the same place as they are, the truth is that he was radically liberal and a person today espousing all the views that he did would be as denounced by conservatives as they denounce Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  48. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @al-Ameda:

    More specifically, I don’t take the arguments put forth above by stonetools, al-Ameda, Dave, and OzarkHillbilly seriously.

    Well, you should. Nearly half the Republican Party still…

    Huh? Did somebody say something? Worth reading? I didn’t think so.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  49. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Do you really think race has nothing to do with this?

    al? He would have to be at least minimally self-aware to think otherwise.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  50. bill says:

    he’s a populist, changes his views when he needs more support from a certain sector.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  51. Kylopod says:

    @An Interested Party:

    he was radically liberal

    He was actually an avowed socialist. The book I referenced in my previous message, Thomas F. Jackson’s From Civil Rights to Human Rights, goes into considerable detail about this fact, with loads of quotes from King throughout his life. For example:

    J. Pious Barbour, a Baptist preacher, socialist, and family friend who welcomed King into his home for many conversations, recalled King’s growing conviction that “the capitalistic system was predicated on exploitation prejudice, [and] poverty.” Marx got the economics of capitalism right and it was time for a “new social order,” King told Barbour. “Capitalism carries the seeds of its own destruction,” King wrote in his notes in the spring of 1951. All systems carried such seeds, but capitalism failed “to meet the needs of the masses.” (p. 38)

    None of this is shocking or even controversial to anyone who’s familiar with King’s life and writings, and indeed during his life and for a number of years afterwards, he was denounced by the right as a Communist. The more recent attempts by conservatives (none of whom ever supported King while he was alive) to claim him as one of their own could only happen after King’s elevation to cultural demigod.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  52. gVOR08 says:

    @Nick: @Steven L. Taylor:

    Did Bush incompetently execute conservative theory or is supply side Republican theory wrong?

    False dichotomy. The answer is “yes”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  53. Hans Bader says:

    This study is ridiculous on its face, as anyone who studies economic regulation or government spending could attest.

    On economic issues, Obama is obviously way to the left of Jimmy Carter (Carter deregulated airlines, trucking and railroads — whereas Obama dramatically expanded regulation of healthcare, finance, and other sectors), and Clinton (who, unlike Obama, allowed government spending to fall as a percentage of GDP, and signed welfare-reform legislation).

    Government welfare and food-stamp spending has surged under Obama (partly due to a weak economy, but partly due to expanded eligibility and benefit standards backed by Obama and enacted through legislation such as the 2009 stimulus package).

    Government spending is much higher as a percentage of GDP than it was during virtually the entire post-World War II era (by a good 5 percent of GDP). That explains why even some center-left newspapers like the Des Moines Register refused to endorse his reelection bid after endorsing him in 2008.

    Obama’s judicial appointees include virtually no moderates — unlike Carter and Clinton’s appointees. Justice Department filings in high-profile Supreme Court cases are well to the left of positions taken by Carter (compare the Carter administration’s failure to push racial preferences in the Bakke case with the virtually unlimited scope of preferences permissible under the Obama Justice Department’s brief in the Fisher case). The Supreme Court rejected an extreme Obama Administration position 9-to-0 in the Hosanna Tabor case, where the Justice Department’s position as amicus was too extreme even for liberal justices.

    Obama won reelection without appealing to independent voters, among whom he lost despite winning the election. Obama won because the liberal demographic base has grown so much that the Democratic Party no longer needs to appeal to the center to win national elections. The GOP’s demographic base has shrunk as America’s demographics have changed, enabling Obama to win despite being the most liberal Democratic President since World War II.

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  54. JohnMcC says:

    @Kylopod: My friend Mr Kylopod, regarding the ‘liberalism’ or ‘conservatism’ of Pres Lyndon Johnson you might consider that the last budget he sent to congress (1968) was actually in surplus. The clearest detailed look at that fact is at: http://federal-budget.findthedata.org/1/70/1968

    Since Hoover, exactly ZERO Repub Presidents have submitted ‘balanced’ budgets. Both Mr Johnson and Mr Clinton did so.

    Amazing how rhetoric tells lies, eh?

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  55. @Hans Bader:

    This study is ridiculous on its face, as anyone who studies economic regulation or government spending could attest.

    Let me stop you there: the problem with the predicate of your argument is that the measurement of liberal/conservative can be reduced to one variable. It can’t.

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  56. jukeboxgrad says:

    bader:

    Government spending is much higher as a percentage of GDP than it was during virtually the entire post-World War II era (by a good 5 percent of GDP).

    The 40-year average is 21%. Most of Reagan’s numbers were over 22%, and he never got lower than 21.2%. His average was 22.3%. Obama’s 22.8% for FY12 is pretty close to Reagan’s average, and much lower than the level Bush reached (25.2%) in FY09. PDF. Scroll to page 30 in your PDF reader.

    Your statement (“by a good 5 percent of GDP”) is correct only if you think the difference between 21 (the 40-year average) and 22.8 (FY12) is greater than 5.

    And of course you’re completely glossing over this core fact: this number is naturally going to peak during a major recession.

    You’re giving us another installment of what Megyn Kelly mentioned: “math you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better.” In the future try to be more honest.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  57. JohnMcC says:

    @Hans Bader: Herr Bader, you correctly note that Mr Carter was responsible for deregulating airlines. He also began several other initiatives for which Mr Reagan receives great praise including the build-up of the Defense Dept and specifically the Navy. Thank you for demonstrating a certain freedom from so much of the cant and nonsense that comes from the so-called-conservative infotainment complex. Well done!

    Sadly, you should reflect on the fact that the deregulated airlines have a wonderful safety record. Which cannot be said for the finance-and-banking sector, you know. There is as the writer of Ecclesiastes knew, a time to break down and a time to build up.

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  58. jukeboxgrad says:

    bader:

    Government spending is much higher as a percentage of GDP than it was during virtually the entire post-World War II era (by a good 5 percent of GDP).

    Also: “Who Is The Smallest Government Spender Since Eisenhower? Would You Believe It’s Barack Obama?” Link.

    Also: “Spending under Obama [has] actually risen ‘slower than at any time in nearly 60 years.’ ” Link.

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  59. Hans Bader says:

    Under Obama, the federal government has spent more money annually than under any other President.

    So Obama isn’t the smallest government spender since Eisenhower.

    Government spending has averaged about 24 percent of GDP under Obama, higher than under Eisenhower.

    I debunk claims that Obama is thrifty in detail at this link:

    http://www.openmarket.org/2012/05/25/no-obama-is-not-the-smallest-government-spender-since-eisenhower/

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  60. Rob in CT says:

    Under Obama, the federal government has spent more money annually than under any other President.

    Adjusted for population growth/inflation, I’m sure. Also, I’m sure you fully considered the 2008-2009 crash in your analysis.

    Spending spiked when the economy tanked, it’s true. It’s also true that the deficit has been falling since, though it is still high. The plan is to keep reducing it. Slower than you’d like, no doubt. But then the plan is to avoid a nasty shock to the economy.

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  61. Hans Bader says:

    @Rob in CT:

    I would like to see major spending cuts (and perhaps more tax increases as well) to get the trillion-dollar deficit under control.

    The Congressional Budget Office says that while the spending cuts and tax increases in the Fiscal Cliff would shrink the economy in the short run, they would actually grow the economy in the long run by reducing debt service costs that crowd out private investment.

    No pain, no gain. Cutting spending can be painful in the short run, but it fuels economic growth in the long run, as Canada found after cutting spending in the 1990s.

    The recent tax increase on high-income households was offset by corporate and special-interest tax credits contained in the deal between Obama and Congressional leaders that raised taxes on high-income households. So it raised virtually no net revenue over the next five years. Skyrocketing deficits will thus continue due to record federal spending and relatively low tax collections.

    Bush was a big spender, but Obama was even bigger. Claims that Obama was not the biggest spender rely on blaming Bush for all of Fiscal 2009’s spending. But Obama signed a $410 billion spending bill soon after taking office that Bush had declined to support. He also pushed through new stimulus spending; SCHIP spending; etc.

    People blame Bush for all of Fiscal 2009’s massive spending, and then treat that huge spending as a benchmark for whether Obama increased spending much. But that is a mistake, as one newspaper noted: “presidents typically sign the next year’s spending bills in the calendar year before they leave office. But not in 2009. The Democratic Congress, confident Obama was going to win in 2008, passed only three of fiscal 2009′s 12 appropriations bills (Defense; Military Construction and Veterans Affairs; and Homeland Security). The Democrat Congress passed the rest of them, and Obama signed them.”

    People voted for big spending. Perhaps they should be willing to pay for it with their wallets.

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  62. C. Clavin says:

    “…Under Obama, the federal government has spent more money annually than under any other President…”
    Stats can be made to say anything.
    Spending under Obama is flat.
    Accept that…then we can have a real discussion about debt.
    http://articles.marketwatch.com/2012-05-22/commentary/31802270_1_spending-federal-budget-drunken-sailor

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  63. David M says:

    @Hans Bader:

    You’re having to do some gymnastics there to try and make Obama look bad. FY2009 is assigned to Bush because the it started several months before Obama took office, and in the real world that budget is not going to be significantly changed by an incoming president.

    Now you may not claim to be part of the GOP, but you’re a pretty good example of why their claims about Obama’s spending aren’t taken seriously. Bush and the GOP get a pass for Medicare Part D, tax cuts, military spending and the spending/GDP levels during a recession at the end of his presidency. Obama and the Democrats are criticized for temporary stimulus spending to avoid a depression.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  64. C. Clavin says:

    Gymnasitics…indeed.
    Important to keep in mind that the stimulusand the bailouts etc. were one time expenditures….and a lot of money has been paid back.
    Medicare Part D, the Bush Tax Cuts (until just recently), the Iraq War (including Veterans benefits out how many decades?), and the debt service required for all of those continue to drive the deficit year after year after year after year.
    Take the deficit Bush left, multiply it by the years Obama has been in office, and that’s the increase in debt +/-.
    It’s pretty simple math…if you aren’t standing on your head.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  65. matt bernius says:

    For what it’s worth, a quick internet search reveals Mr. Bader is the Competitive Enterprise Institute‘s Senior Attorney and Counsel for Special Projects.

    Given his organizations conservative/libertarian bent, it’s not particularly difficult to see the position he’s arguing from and why he might be a little reticent to give any credibility to this paper.

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  66. Hans Bader says:

    @David M:

    There is no evidence that the $800 billion stimulus package averted a depression, as you claim (“Obama and the Democrats are criticized for temporary stimulus spending to avoid a depression.”)

    The stimulus package actually shrinks the size of the economy in the long run, as the Congressional Budget Office’s director, Douglas Elmendorf, admitted to the Senate in 2011, and as the Congressional Budget Office conceded it would in 2009 (as noted on NPR’s blog and also reported in publications such as the Washington Times and Reason Magazine).

    The CBO said the stimulus would help the economy in the short run, but reduce the size of the economy in the long run by driving up debt service costs on the national debt, and thus crowding out private investment.

    At the time the stimulus package was passed, the federal government was already running a record deficit — a mighty big stimulus from a Keynesian economic perspective. Adding to that existing stimulus with a massive stimulus package that harms the country’s long-run economic solvency was not justifiable.

    Given that America is one of the richest countries in the world, and also very indebted, there was no justification for the Obama Administration to try to increase the economy in the short run — while shrinking it in the long run — through an additional deficit-financed stimulus package. That is irresponsible short-term thinking.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  67. C. Clavin says:

    More gymnasitcs from Hans…

    “…At the time the stimulus package was passed, the federal government was already running a record deficit — a mighty big stimulus from a Keynesian economic perspective…”

    That’s just nonsense.
    First…an massive economic crisis including a 9% contraction of GDP in Bushs last quarter, a mighty big driver of deficit, hardly counts as stimulus spending.
    Second…Tax Cuts…another big driver of the deficit…are nototriously inefficient stimulus.

    “…Adding to that existing stimulus with a massive stimulus package that harms the country’s long-run economic solvency was not justifiable…”

    Of course unless you have one of the million jobs created or saved. A million fewer jobs would have surely helped the recovery.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  68. David M says:

    @Hans Bader:

    It’s pretty clear to most observers the stimulus worked. And worry about the long-term effect on the economy seems astonishingly misguided. Really, no one cares what effect the stimulus might have in 2025.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  69. Hans Bader says:

    @David M:

    America is $16 trillion in debt and you ask this??!!:

    “worry about the long-term effect on the economy seems astonishingly misguided”

    America is one of the wealthiest countries in the world in the short term. But massive deficit spending, likely to increase due to unfunded pensions and unfunded entitlements, threaten this prosperity and economic stability in the long run.

    It is the long run that we should be concerned about, not the short-run.

    And while observers who only care about the short run may deem the stimulus package a success, those who care about the long run have good reason to oppose it, since, as NPR has noted, the Congressional Budget Office concluded that the stimulus package will shrink the economy in the long run.

    Even in the short run, there are those who thought the stimulus package a bad idea.

    Harvard economists Robert Barro and Jeffrey Miron criticized the stimulus package. Barro called it “the worst bill that has been put forward since the 1930s.” The “’stimulus’ is not the road to economic recovery. It’s the problem, not the solution, wrote Nobel Prize winning economist Vernon L. Smith.” And 200 economists signed a statement publicly opposing the stimulus package in an ad published in The Washington Post and New York Times. Two economists argued that the stimulus indirectly wiped out a net 550,000 jobs by diverting money away from more productive uses in the private sector.

    The director of the Congressional Budget Office admitted that the stimulus package will actually shrink the economy in the long run, and have “a net negative effect on the growth of GDP over 10 years” in his congressional testimony in November 2011.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  70. David M says:

    @Hans Bader:

    Two economists argued that the stimulus indirectly wiped out a net 550,000 jobs by diverting money away from more productive uses in the private sector.

    During the time the stimulus was in effect, or in 2025? Which two economists?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  71. Hans Bader says:

    @David M:

    It was Timothy Conley and Bill Dupor who were the “Two economists argued that the stimulus indirectly wiped out a net 550,000 jobs by diverting money away from more productive uses in the private sector.”

    They argued that by 2011, the stimulus package had wiped out a million private sector jobs, while saving 450,000 government jobs, for a net loss of 550,000 jobs.

    Their paper was entitled, “The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: Public Sector Jobs Saved, Private Sector Jobs Forestalled.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  72. David M says:

    @Hans Bader:

    The results of that study were statistically insignificant and do not support your claim. Either way, the idea of “crowding out” during 2009-2011 doesn’t seem likely.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  73. Rob in CT says:

    I would like to see major spending cuts (and perhaps more tax increases as well) to get the trillion-dollar deficit under control.

    Well, what we have here is a difference of degree. I too am concerned about the level of debt, though I differ on the size of cuts/tax increases needed right now, especially given negative real interest rates on 10-yr treasuries + persistent high unemployment.

    In the medium to long-term, I too support higher taxes and lower spending. I would focus on the military budget first, but also Medicare (healthcare is THE scary thing, really). Now, my preferred response to our healthcare spending problem was not chosen, and I don’t expect to see it anytime soon, if ever. So, we work with the (mess) we have, and yeah benefit cuts will have to happen.

    On taxes, the next step is probably to hit the group that was the big winner in the last deal: the ~$100k-$400k set (my people, so to speak).

    As for the stimulus bill… this isn’t very convincing:

    Barro called it “the worst bill that has been put forward since the 1930s.”

    Oh noes! If an anti-Keynesian economist said so, it must be true! Of course, we all know that if it wasn’t for those rascally FDR and Keynes fellas, there wouldn’t have been a Great Depression. After all, we know that it was WWII the greatest US government spending program in history that ended the depression. Oh, wait…

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  74. Rob in CT says:

    By the way, I can do the whole “appeal to authority” thing too.

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  75. Ben Wolf says:

    1) The stimulus did not divert a single penny. Nothing is “taken” when government spends; in fact it is impossible for government spending to reduce the net financial assets of the non-government sector.

    2) It is incorrect to attribute current negative balances to the policies of Barack Obama. The truth is that deficits are to a great extent beyond government control due to cyclical factors.

    The budget balance can be simplified as follows:

    (Taxes + Other Revenues) – (Discretionary Spending + Non-Discretionary Outlays)

    In 2007-2009 revenues collapsed, driving the budget futher into negative balance. At the same time automatic stabilizers (which rise as revenues fall and are non-discretionary) increased outlays as twenty-five million people were thrown out of full-time work.

    This explains why government spending cannot reduce non-government sector financial wealth. As the government’s negative balance of payments (what conservatives call deficits in order to scare everyone) reached $1.5 trillion in 2009, the non-government sector ran a positive balance of $1.5 trillion (surplus).

    In other words government spending (as a matter of accounting, not theory) in excess of revenues increases non-government sector financial wealth.

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  76. jukeboxgrad says:

    bader:

    People blame Bush for all of Fiscal 2009′s massive spending

    It’s true that Obama added spending for FY09. How much did Obama add? Link:

    Economist Daniel J. Mitchell of the libertarian CATO Institute … has put the figure at $140 billion.

    So it’s true that Bush was not 100% responsible for the FY09 deficit of $1.4T. He was only 90% responsible.

    Government spending has averaged about 24 percent of GDP under Obama

    Nice job trying to slither away from the false claim you made earlier. You said this:

    Government spending is much higher as a percentage of GDP than it was during virtually the entire post-World War II era (by a good 5 percent of GDP).

    That claim is false. You need to either substantiate it or withdraw it.

    You weren’t making a claim about Obama’s average. You were making a claim about his spending now (“is”). His average is 23.7%, but the number for FY12 is 22.8% (link). That recent number is what’s relevant if you want to make a claim about what’s happening now, and that’s what you did.

    The average for the period 1946-2009 is 19.7%. If you start in 1960, the average is 20.3%. If you start in 1980, the average is 21%.

    Obama’s recent number (22.8% for FY12) compared with the average for “the entire post-World War II era” (19.7%) yields a difference of 3.1, which is not “a good 5 percent of GDP.” And the difference is much smaller if you look at a more relevant period (like the last 30 years instead of the last 68 years).

    No matter how you look at it, your claim is false. So please tell us about the magic GOP calculator that you used to come up with your claim regarding “a good 5 percent of GDP.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  77. Kart says:

    @Carol Sorenson: So…what should have Obama done? Keep cutting the grass, even though the uninsured house has burnt to the ground and hope one day to win the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes rather than borrowing money to rebuild? @Nick:

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  78. jukeboxgrad says:

    And no one should be surprised if we hear no answer from Bader, because his usual MO is to disappear when his hackery is exposed. Example. For more fun with Hans from five months ago, see here. And this one is from three years ago: link.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  79. Kylopod says:

    @JohnMcC: Yes I’m aware of that fact, and I even considered mentioning it, but you’ve provided a lot more detail than I would have been able to come up with. People seem to forget this aspect of his presidency due to his reputation as a “big spender”–which he was, in fact (mostly due to the war), but unlike Reagan and Bush, he actually paid for it. (The seemingly commonsense idea that it is possible for the government to spend a lot of money without increasing the deficit seems to confound many conservatives, as seen in much right-wing commentary on Obamacare.)

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  80. anjin-san says:

    @ Hans Bader:

    Perhaps this information did not come with your secret wingnut decoder ring, but there is no such thing as The Democrat Congress

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  81. jukeboxgrad says:

    What’s funny is the context. He said this:

    as one newspaper noted: “presidents typically sign the next year’s spending bills … The Democrat Congress passed the rest of them, and Obama signed them.”

    He coyly refrains from providing a link or disclosing the name of the “newspaper.” As if “Democrat Congress” is not a giant clue that he’s citing some wingnut rag, since no legitimate “newspaper” would use that phrase, unless they were reporting on the language used by wingnut rags.

    It turns out that the text he pasted in came from an unsigned editorial at Washington Examiner, a wingnut rag owned by billionaire wingnut Philip Anschutz (who also owns Weekly Standard). Bader writes for them, and it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that he wrote the words he cited.

    What a hack.

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