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The Mandate Myth

Of the silly posturing going on around the fiscal cliff negotiations, the silliest is the notion that last month’s election somehow decided the outcome. Elections absolutely have consequences, since they put the players in office. What they don’t do is confer a “mandate” on the winners.

Yes, it’s true that President Obama handily won re-election.  He got 62.6 million votes to Mitt Romney’s 59.1 million and won 332 electoral votes to Romney’s 206. It’s also true that Republicans under-performed in the Congressional races, losing 8 House seats and 2 Senate seats–despite the fact that 23 of the 33 Senate seats up for grabs were held by Democrats.

But it’s also true that the Republican Party retains a 234 to 201 majority in the House and has a strong minority with 45 seats in the Senate. And those Republicans got elected by pledging to keep taxes low and seek to balance the budget through cuts in government entitlement programs.

Beyond that, we don’t have single elections on single issues.  We had 50 state elections for president, 435 district level elections for House, and 33 state elections for Senate. Even the Obama-Romney race wasn’t decided solely–or even mostly–on the issue of tax rates.

The Democrats clearly have the upper hand in the fight. First, control of the White House is a tremendous advantage. Second, because the “Bush Tax Cuts” will automatically expire on January 1, there’s not much the Republicans can do to stop reverting to the Clinton rates for top earners; the only question is whether they’re willing to take the massive political hit in also raising taxes on the other 98 percent.

Because of that, I consider it a foregone conclusion that Obama will get at least a partial win here. Either he’ll get what he’s asked for–a rate hike on those earning over $250,000 a year–outright or he’ll get some sort of compromise on his terms; I’d guess that the top rate hike will apply at $500,000 or even $1,000,000 rather than $250,000. And, just given the math, the Republicans will also manage to force Democrats to give more than they want in entitlement reforms.

The bottom line here is that we continue to have a system of separation of powers with checks and balances. The Democrats’ hand was strengthened on November 6 by virtue of retention of the White House and increased numbers in Congress. But they don’t have enough votes to pass any laws, including the one that addresses the current crisis, without peeling off a substantial number of Republicans.

To the extent that Obama’s policy preference is popular it gives him some Bully Pulpit clout to fight Republicans with. But the same election that gave him the “mandate” to do it also gave Congressional Republicans a “mandate” to try and stop him.

Correction: An earlier version of the post listed the current 242 to 193 House breakdown rather than the 234 to 201 breakdown for the next Congress that resulted from November’s election.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Moosebreath says:

    “But it’s also true that the Republican Party retains a 242 to 193 majority in the House and has a strong minority with 45 seats in the Senate.”

    And it’s also true that Democrats running for the House picked up over 1 million more votes than Republicans. The Republican majority is primarily due to gerrymandering.

    And of course, Bush the Younger claimed a mandate for privitizing Social Security in 2005 (largely cheered on by Republicans at first), in spite of not having campaigned on the issue and having won a smaller re-election victory, both in voting percentage and in the electoral college, than Obama did.

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  2. James Joyner says:

    @Moosebreath: Presidents can claim all the mandates they want. But, as you’ll recall, Bush didn’t get his Social Security privatization. (Which he did indeed campaign on with some frequency, although it surely wasn’t the centerpiece of his campaign.)

    And, really, the overall number of votes is completely irrelevant. What matters is the votes in each district.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 9

  3. john personna says:

    That’s misreading where the mandate comes from.

    The Republican ideas failed, in a broader sense than just the Presidential election. Not only did Romney fail running on tax cuts (or if you believe Romney no tax cuts) and large spending cuts, single issue polling confirms the shift.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  4. mantis says:

    But it’s also true that the Republican Party retains a 242 to 193 majority in the House and has a strong minority with 45 seats in the Senate.

    Those are lame duck numbers for the House (but not the Senate). In a few weeks it will be 234 – 200 in the House. Not that it makes much difference regarding your main point.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  5. Rafer Janders says:

    But it’s also true that the Republican Party retains a 242 to 193 majority in the House and has a strong minority with 45 seats in the Senate. And those Republicans got elected by pledging to keep taxes low and seek to balance the budget through cuts in government entitlement programs.

    *Sigh*. But it’s also true that those Republicans got elected because their various state GOP-controlled legislatures gerrymandered the hell out of their districts, so they won those races despite having less support than Democrats overall. While the GOP won approximately 55% of House seats, they received less than half of the votes cast overall — indeed, more than half-a-million more Americans voted for Democratic House candidates than for Republicans. How, mathematically, is this possible? Gerrymandering, the redrawing of House seats after the 2010 census to give the GOP an unfair advantage.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  6. Rafer Janders says:

    Here’s an article by Dave Weigel at Slate which shows how this works. In Pensylvania, for example, the Democrats won the majority of House votes statewide — yet wound up with only 5 seats compared to the GOP’s 13. Same in Ohio — Democrats won the state overall, but have only 4 House seats while the GOP has 12.

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/weigel/2012/11/07/how_ridiculous_gerrymanders_saved_the_house_republican_majority.html

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  7. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    And, really, the overall number of votes is completely irrelevant. What matters is the votes in each district.

    While the votes in each district matters when determining who actually gets seated, the overall number of votes is not irrelevant if we’re trying to figure out what the majority of voters in a democracy actually, y’know, want to see done.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  8. Rob in CT says:

    I think the upshot of the gerrymandering analysis is that it did help the GOP, but even w/o it they’d have held on to their majority.

    Anyway, I largely agree with James about “mandates.” But it’s not really important. Bluster about mandates is just that. What matters is what gets done (or not).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  9. Rob in CT says:

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/12/02/1166653/-It-wasn-t-just-gerrymandering

    http://themonkeycage.org/blog/2012/11/15/not-gerrymandering-but-districting-more-evidence-on-how-democrats-won-the-popular-vote-but-lost-the-congress/

    Money quote from the monkeycage analysis:

    If we were to imagine that these bipartisan or court maps were unbiased, and Democrats received the same benefit from their own maps that Republicans received from theirs (let’s say a 13% advantage as an average), this would have yielded 14 additional seats, likely getting the Democrats within 3 or 4 seats of the majority.

    So, while gerrymandering certainly was a big factor, and I’m all for trying to come up with ways of making it harder for the parties to pull this crap, I don’t think it was decisive.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  10. mantis says:

    @James Joyner:

    But, as you’ll recall, Bush didn’t get his Social Security privatization.

    That was barely mentioned in the 2004 campaign. Obama has been talking his position on tax rates more than anything else for years now. It was the key plank of the campaign. Also, privatizing SS was unpopular while letting tax rates on incomes above $250 is very popular. The two issues are not really comparable.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  11. Just Me says:

    But it’s also true that those Republicans got elected because their various state GOP-controlled legislatures gerrymandered the hell out of their districts, so they won those races despite having less support than Democrats overall.

    Talk to me about gerrymandering when a GOP candidate has a chance to win a seat in Harlem or Jesse Jackson Jr’s old seat (which has a habit of sending corrupt politicians to DC).

    The reality is that the GOP controls the House and they shouldn’t be expected to roll over and meet every demand Obama or the democrats want because they say so.

    The GOP members of the house still have their own constituents to represent and those who voted for them didn’t vote for Obama or the democrats.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 9

  12. Rick DeMent says:

    And let’s make one more distinction here:

    Obama campaigned very clearly and very loudly on the extremely specific proposal to raise the top marginal rate to 39.5. Romney campaigned on murky and non-specific cuts to entitlements. Now the way I see it the idea of whether or not the president has a mandate for anything is, at best, a side show. What is front and center is that the president stuck his neck out, took a specific position in a weak economy, and made it a centerpiece in his campaign. Whatever else might be agreed to in this negotiation the idea that the president should not be able to insist on that one line item is crackers and the fact that the GOP is balking at it puts them in the position of sending us over the cliff or the curb or the muffin … whatever it is, by blocking an overwhelmingly popular, specific provision that Obama put front in center of his campaign vs the murky, unspecified, player top be named later provision that even now the Republicans don’t have to stones to get specific on.

    The GOP is being not only gutless but they are fooling themselves that this discussion over who has a mandate is even relevant.

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  13. Geek, Esq. says:

    Two big differences between Bush 2004 Social Security and Obama “have the rich pony up for deficit reduction”:

    1) Bush didn’t campaign on privatizing social security–that is not what the election was about; letting the tax rates for the wealthy expire was the central issue in the 2012 campaign.

    2) Privatizing social security was DEEPLY unpopular–so much so that the Republicans never even tried to have a vote on it. In contrast, having deficit reduction include higher rates on the most fortunate in society is a very popular position.

    The Republicans are trying to enact Mitt Romney’s tax plan. Great idea, except he got his butt kicked.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  14. anjin-san says:

    @ Just Me

    The GOP members of the house still have their own constituents to represent

    As we speak, Republican leaders in the house are kicking members such as Tim Huelskamp, who cannot be counted on to vote according to the the party line, off of their committees – a clear repudiation of the need for members to serve the needs of their constituents in favor of a demand for party orthodoxy.

    So don’t expect us to get misty eyed over GOP devotion to their constituents.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  15. mantis says:

    @Just Me:

    Talk to me about gerrymandering when a GOP candidate has a chance to win a seat in Harlem or Jesse Jackson Jr’s old seat (which has a habit of sending corrupt politicians to DC).

    Dude, you don’t even understand gerrymandering. The point of it is to shove as many of the opposing party’s voters into a small number of districts, and spread your own party’s voters into as many districts as possible. Republicans wouldn’t change a thing about Harlem seats or the Illinois 2nd District. That’s exactly how they would want them if they redistricted Illinois or New York.

    Look at Pennsylvania, which just got thoroughly gerrymandered by the GOP. Republicans don’t have a prayer in the 5 districts that are packed with Democrats, but they are able to take 13 of them in a state that as a whole is +3-5 Democrat. They aren’t complaining, as you are, about the fact that they can’t win the 5 districts because that is the point. They packed every Democrat they possibly could into those districts and spread the rest out so they are small minorities in all the other districts. It’s not representative in any honest way, but it is the system we have built for ourselves.

    You can expect to see a concerted effort by the Democrats to take back as many state legislatures as they can before the 2020 Census, just like the Republicans did (quite expertly) in 2010. The difference is that 2020 is a presidential election year, which should be to the Democrats advantage.

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  16. mantis says:

    @Just Me:

    The reality is that the GOP controls the House and they shouldn’t be expected to roll over and meet every demand Obama or the democrats want because they say so.

    No one is saying they should. Do you think they should never compromise on anything and should continue to hold the country’s economy hostage and damage our credit rating out of spite? Because that’s what they have been doing and are promising to continue to do.

    The GOP members of the house still have their own constituents to represent and those who voted for them didn’t vote for Obama or the democrats.

    First of all, you don’t know that people who voted for a Republican rep didn’t vote for any Democrats. Second, the representatives are supposed to represent everyone in their districts, not just those who voted for them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  17. Geek, Esq. says:

    @mantis:

    To a certain extent yes, but it’s also a drawback to the Democratic coalition’s dependence on running up the score in urban areas that are by definition geographically concentrated. It’s a lot easier to gerrymander when your support is in the suburbs and ex-urbs than when your supporters all live within a 10 mile radius. Even without gerrymandering, Democrats tend to suffer from geographically-based districts as opposed to at-large slates for the whole state.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  18. mantis says:

    @Geek, Esq.:

    This is all true, but as PA shows us, it does matter who gets to draw the lines, even if Democrats tend to be more fconcentrated geographically. They may not arrive at districts that provide a true 1:1 representation of party alliances when looked at collectively statewide, but they should be closer. Our representation should be of citizens, not land.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  19. swbarnes2 says:

    @Just Me:

    Talk to me about gerrymandering when a GOP candidate has a chance to win a seat in Harlem or Jesse Jackson Jr’s old seat

    Sigh. Anyone offering policies that the inhabitants of those districts favor would have a chance.

    The GOP has only the policies that flow from their virulent racism and sexism and scorn for the poor. That’s why GOP politicians will never win seats there.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  20. Geek, Esq. says:

    @mantis:

    The real question is what to do about it. I would argue that what Democrats need to do is look down the road and figure out how to make inroads with voters in swing areas between the rural and the urban to nullify the effects of gerrymandering and districting. The GOP supposedly had an iron lock on the House after 2000 due to districting, but suffered catastrophic losses in 2006.

    The issue is that they spread themselves thinner, to the point where shifting demographics and political realities mean that they all win by 3-4%, or they face mass extinction when trends catch up with them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  21. Just Me says:

    Do you think they should never compromise on anything and should continue to hold the country’s economy hostage and damage our credit rating out of spite?

    I am fine with compromise.

    I am not even opposed to raising taxes, I just think the government has got to get spending under control and they can only do so by controlling spending on the areas that the government is spending the most-entitlements and the military.

    There isn’t a magic money tree in Washington and there aren’t enough wealthy people to tax to pay for all the spending.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 7

  22. LaMont says:

    @James Joyner:

    What matters is the votes in each district.

    Correct me if I’m wrong but you are referring to the same districts that were re-districted to favor conservative candidates (ah la gerrymandering)?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  23. Tsar Nicholas says:

    To the victors belong the spoils.

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  24. James Joyner says:

    @mantis: Yes, was looking at the wrong column. Fixed in the post.

    @Rafer Janders: While I oppose gerrymandering for partisan advantage and would like to see states move to having independent commissions draw the lines, the fact is that this is the system put in place by the Framers and a reward for winning the 2010 state house elections. Regardless, though, as @Rob in CT points out, the results are more marginal than you imply.

    @Rick DeMent: @Geek, Esq.: I concede that Obama made his preferences on this issue quite clear. It was a central plank of his campaign. But so what? Even if we were to believe that this was the sole reason people voted for him–which of course isn’t the case–48 percent of the country voted for the other guy. And even more of them voted for people who ran on the opposite platform for the House and Senate.

    That’s why the “mandate” notion is silly. To the extent that Obama’s policy preference is popular–and I think taxing the top 2% is indeed popular with those who stand to get something for nothing–it gives him some Bully Pulpit clout to fight Republicans with. But the same election that gave him the “mandate” to do it also gave Congressional Republicans a “mandate” to try and stop him.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 9

  25. anjin-san says:

    that the government is spending the most-entitlements and the military

    Republicans are adement that the pentagon budget can’t be touched – in fact they ran on giving them 2 trillion more than they asked for. As for entitlements, while we are talking about cutting benefits for hard working Americans who have been paying into the system for decades, can we also talk about cutting corporate welfare? According to the GOP, the answer is no.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  26. @James Joyner:

    And, really, the overall number of votes is completely irrelevant.

    It is relevant if you’re going to use the party balance as a proxy for nationwide popularity.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  27. Argon says:

    I recall hazily that Bush’s campaign in 2004 was mostly “Mo’ war! Live in fear beatches! Booga, booga, booga!”

    Social security issues were pretty minor.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  28. Argon says:

    Oh yeah, and something about ‘threat-level puce’.

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  29. James Joyner says:

    @Stormy Dragon: I’m not using it as a proxy for anything nationally because that’s not our system. Our system is that we elect a president through the outcome of a state-by-state contest, a House of Representatives via 435 district-level contests, and a third of the Senate every 2 years via state-level contests. No national mandates confer from that process, either presumptively or practically. All that matters is what you can pass through the system.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  30. @mantis:

    Our representation should be of citizens, not land.

    I’m reminded of an exercise we did in my junior high american history class, where the class was divided up into teams for each of the 13 original states, and then held our own constitutional convention. There was two major differences in our resulting constitution. The first that was we managed to ban slavery in the constitution. The way that was accomplished is that during the research, the Georgia delegation noted that, because it was very poor at the time, Georgia didn’t actually have many slaves at the time the Constitution was ratified (that changed by the time of the civil war). Georgia made a secret deal with New York and Pennsyania and a few of the North Eastern states to trade a no vote on slavery for the other big difference in our constitution: representation in the house was based on a state’s land area rather than its population.

    Ever since I find myself occasionally pondering how completely different that alternate version of America would have turned out.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  31. Rick DeMent says:

    @James Joyner:

    i’m not arguing there was a mandate, I’m arguing that out of all of the proposals, ideas, and policy argument that swirled around the camping the one thing that was front and center was the idea of raising the rates on the wealthy. Add to that the face that the idea polls at over 60% and frankly I would like to hear any coherent argument to suggest that that particular policy idea should not be implemented. I’m not saying Obama has a mandate for anything he want’s to do, I’m not suggesting that the Republicans should be left out of the argument (to the extent they are not making themselves irreverent by not being specific on what they want to cut). I’m saying that the GOP need to make the argument that that policy initiative should not be implemented and that haven’t.

    I would like to hear you tell me what, if anything, winning the vote means for the winner if not the ability to get deference from the losing party on one, central issue of the camping. No one is making the argument that it should be a winner take all deal. No one would argue that every single policy intuitive utters by the president should be enacted, and no one is saying he has a mandate for anything.

    What I am saying is that the GOP has repeatedly declined to get specific on anything other then to say we should not raise the top marginal rates, the president said we should. That was the clearest distinction made in the entire election. The president won the election, the presidents position is even more popular in polls then his margin of victory so the idea that the republicans have a duty to their constituents to fight to the death on this issue is a big fat joke. End of story.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  32. stonetools says:

    That’s why the “mandate” notion is silly.

    Er, no its not. The definition of mandate:

    a command or authorization to act in a particular way on a public issue given by the electorate to its representative: The president had a clear mandate to end the war.

    The way that people tell their government what they want it to do is by majority vote in elections. The majority spoke quite clearly in this election, and nowhere in the above definition is a requirement that the majority vote be an overwhelming one.
    Put another way, if Romney had won by this margin, most would see this as a mandate to lower taxes on the rich-and they would be right, too.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  33. Rafer Janders says:

    @Just Me:

    There isn’t a magic money tree in Washington

    You keep saying this, and I keep pointing out that there is, indeed, a magic money tree — it’s called the U.S. Treasury and it literally prints money. The federal government controls the money supply, and it can print as much or as little money as it wants.

    and there aren’t enough wealthy people to tax to pay for all the spending.

    Again, yes, there kind of are. The proposed Obama tax hikes would raise $1.6 trillion over the next decade.

    Considering that these facts have been pointed out to you time and again, and that you keep repeating the same shop-worn cliches, I have to conclude you are either deliberately lying or lost in your own fantasy world. In neither case should you be taken seriously.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  34. James Joyner says:

    @Rick DeMent: The president didn’t win THE election; he won AN election. That is: He won the right to command the Executive branch of our government for four years. That’s an awesome amount of power in our system and the biggest available prize. But Republicans won the majority of the House and effective veto power in the Senate.

    For reasons already outlined, the president has the upper hand in this fight. And, to the extent he’s arguing that we need to raise revenue and the Republicans are arguing that we don’t, I think he’s even right–although I prefer a different line at where the rates go up. But he’s still got to make enough concessions to get a majority in the House and 60 votes in the Senate. That’s highly doable.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  35. James Joyner says:

    @stonetools:

    Put another way, if Romney had won by this margin, most would see this as a mandate to lower taxes on the rich-and they would be right, too.

    If Romney had won but the Congressional vote came out exactly as it did (an unlikely combination, to be sure) would Harry Reid and his Senate majority think so? I’m guessing not. Nor would I expect them to.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  36. jukeboxgrad says:

    james:

    He got 62.6 million votes to Mitt Romney’s 59.1 million

    Those numbers are quite stale. More current numbers are here. Obama: 65.4. Mitt: 60.7. Difference: 4.6.

    Some other numbers:

    Popular vote
    Bush 2004: 50.73%
    Obama 2012: 50.94%

    Popular vote margin, percent
    2004 2.46%
    2012 3.62%

    Popular vote margin, number of votes
    2004 3.0 million
    2012 4.6 million

    Number of votes for the winner
    2004 62.0 million
    2012 65.4 million

    Electoral vote margin
    2004 35
    2012 126

    Obama 2012 is a stronger victory than Bush 2004. In 2004, many people claimed that GWB had a mandate. This group included not just Republican leaders but also many supposedly liberal reporters (link).

    By Republican standards, Obama’s victory is both a mandate and also a landslide.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  37. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    For reasons already outlined, the president has the upper hand in this fight. And, to the extent he’s arguing that we need to raise revenue and the Republicans are arguing that we don’t, I think he’s even right–

    Remind me again why you voted for Romney over Obama?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  38. David M says:

    @Just Me:

    I just think the government has got to get spending under control and they can only do so by controlling spending on the areas that the government is spending the most-entitlements and the military.

    Cutting the military makes sense, but what exactly do you mean by entitlements? Medicare and Social Security aren’t contributing to the deficit, and Obamacare will reduce the deficit….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  39. PJ says:

    @James Joyner:

    While I oppose gerrymandering for partisan advantage and would like to see states move to having independent commissions draw the lines, the fact is that this is the system put in place by the Framers and a reward for winning the 2010 state house elections. Regardless, though, as @Rob in CT points out, the results are more marginal than you imply.

    According to the monkeycage analysis, if the Democrats had been as good at gerrymandering as the Republicans and there hadn’t been any bias in states with bipartisan or court-drawn maps, then the Democrats would have needed to get just 3 Republicans instead of 17 Republicans.
    I wouldn’t call that marginal.

    Also, the outcome would have been quite different from the analysis if there wasn’t any gerrymandering at all.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  40. Scott F. says:

    James –

    That’s why the “mandate” notion is silly. To the extent that Obama’s policy preference is popular–and I think taxing the top 2% is indeed popular with those who stand to get something for nothing–it gives him some Bully Pulpit clout to fight Republicans with. But the same election that gave him the “mandate” to do it also gave Congressional Republicans a “mandate” to try and stop him.

    So “mandate” is a silly concept, yet I’m curious…

    To your mind, just what is the criteria that must be met in order for a Party’s agenda to be acted upon? We live in a representative democracy, so it will always be the case that some will be elected to pursue the policies they put forward and others will be elected in opposition. What do you see as the terms that decide when the “will of the people” is clear enough that one side must bend more to the demands of the other?

    What you’re suggesting seems to me an eternity of politicians spitting at each other.

    And BTW, Obama very clearly wasn’t elected on the idea that taxing the top 2% would enable the 98% to get something for nothing, so that formulation is too cute by half. For some time now, the top 2% have been getting almost everything for a pittance and now the bill is due.

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  41. stonetools says:

    @James Joyner:

    A mandate tells the winner of an election what the people want. It doesn’t tell the losing party that they shouldn’t resist-although it does tell them that they are resisting the will of the majority .

    Let’s look to another election involving tax issues. In 1984 Walter Mondale ran against Reagan. He ran as a liberal, explicitly stating that he would raise taxes. Reagan won overwhelmingly.
    Did Reagan have a mandate on his tax policy? Clearly he did, even though 41 per cent voted against Reagan. Also too, the Democrats held on to their huge majority in the House and gained a seat in the Senate. That still doesn’t mean Reagan did not have a mandate.

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  42. john personna says:

    There are four themes of the day here that obviously go together:

    – Obama’s mandate
    – Polling which says Obama OWNs the budget fight
    – Boenher’s discipline of Teas
    – Armey’s departure from the Teas

    It seems pretty clear cognitive dissonance to claim there is no mandate even as the GOP scrambles to get out from in front of the wrecking ball.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  43. mantis says:

    @jukeboxgrad:

    By Republican standards, Obama’s victory is both a mandate and also a landslide.

    Republican standards? No, Republican standards dictate that only Republicans get mandates. A Democrat could win 80% of the vote and every electoral vote and Republicans would still call it a split decision that demands compromise (from Democrats only, of course).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  44. cd6 says:

    @James Joyner:

    the fact is that this is the system put in place by the Framers

    Man do I hate this argument

    Maybe it’s worth considering that the system put in place by the Framers, was, I don’t know, not perfect?

    Allowing the group who arbitrarily wins every ten years to gerrymander their states for the next ten years probably wasn’t the intent of the Framers, because its a terrible system

    Allowing any 41 Senators, theoretically including those from the least populous states and thus Senators who represent only 15% of the population or whatever that adds up to, to completely block ANY major legislation from passing that chamber – surely this isn’t what th Framers intended. If it is, then they made a stupid decision and behooves us to change it.

    One of the first steps to improving our broken system of government is to get away from slavish dovotion to whatever some dudes thought up 200 years ago, and accept maybe, its possible, we can improve somehow?

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  45. James Joyner says:

    @stonetools: Maybe. But, again, the job of an individual Representative or Senator isn’t to represent the will of the national majority. Rather, their job is to represent their constitutents: the people of their district or state.

    @john personna: I’m not sure what to make of the FreedomWorks mess, since there’s no information on what’s causing it. I do think there’s a lot of pressure on Congressional Republicans to preserve the tax cuts on the bottom 98%, regardless of whatever pressure there is to raise it on the top 2%. But that’s a different thing than the results of the previous election—it’s fear of what’ll happen in the next election.

    Also, I’m arguing here not just that the election didn’t confer a mandate on Obama on this specific policy issue. Rather, I’m arguing the larger point that, given our system of divided government, it’s almost impossible for any election to confer a mandate, period. The exceptions are those very rare landslide elections that change the composition of power.

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  46. James Joyner says:

    @cd6: I’m not making an argument that the Framers got everything right. The circumstances of 2012 are radically different from those of 1787. I’m saying that this is the nature of the game and has been for more than two centuries.

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  47. john personna says:

    @James Joyner:

    Honestly, I think that Obama and Bohener understand the relationship between the electoral mandate and the national sentiment. One confirms the other. And vice versa.

    It is a bit pedantic to insist they are separate.

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  48. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Just Me:

    Talk to me about gerrymandering when a GOP candidate has a chance to win a seat in Harlem or Jesse Jackson Jr’s old seat (which has a habit of sending corrupt politicians to DC).

    Here is how gerrymandering works: Party X controls the state legislature. They put as many Y voters they can into a single district or 2. Those districts will always vote Y. Now put a comfortable majority of X voters in all the other districts in the state (say 60-40) thereby diluting their electoral effect (or to put it another way: Disenfranchising them). This is how it is that MO has 6 GOP congressmen and only 2 Dem, and yet in every statewide election this past cycle, except 2 (president and L Gov) Dems won. US Senator, Governor, Auditor, Secretary of State, Attorney General…

    I won’t go so far as to say the GOP is dead as a “state party”, but in 2016? They have a problem.

    And yes, Dems do this too. I don’t care who does it, it is wrong.

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  49. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Just Me:

    There isn’t a magic money tree in Washington

    Just for the record, Yes there is. It’s name is the Federal Reserve. Mind you, pulling unlimited amounts of money off that tree does not come without consequences…

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  50. Barry says:

    @Just Me: “Talk to me about gerrymandering when a GOP candidate has a chance to win a seat in Harlem or Jesse Jackson Jr’s old seat (which has a habit of sending corrupt politicians to DC).”

    How about looking up the definition of gerrymandering?

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  51. Geek, Esq. says:

    @James Joyner:

    There certainly would have been a massive scaling back of Obamacare. The question would have been whether it would have been fully repealed or only substantially repealed.

    Taxes would have been more tricky, because Obama would have held veto power through January 20, so he would still be in charge through the fiscal cliff date.

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  52. bk says:

    @James Joyner:

    I think taxing the top 2% is indeed popular with those who stand to get something for nothing

    WHAT? So, the 60+% of Americans who are in favor of this are just moochers, getting “something for nothing”, in your view?

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  53. James Joyner says:

    @bk: I’m saying that, when you propose to rob Peter to pay Paul, you can always count on the support of Paul. It’s one thing when rich people accept that they can shoulder a greater burden; that’s a considered judgment. When those who aren’t going to be impacted by a rate hike sign on to it, it’s not exactly a news flash.

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  54. Moosebreath says:

    @James Joyner:

    “It’s one thing when rich people accept that they can shoulder a greater burden”

    And the chance of getting the rich to admit this (possibly excluding the case of an existential crisis like WWII) is…

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  55. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    It’s one thing when rich people accept that they can shoulder a greater burden; that’s a considered judgment.

    No, that’s a unicorn.

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  56. swbarnes2 says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Remind me again why you voted for Romney over Obama?

    I trust you have your answer now?

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  57. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’m saying that, when you propose to rob Peter to pay Paul, you can always count on the support of Paul. It’s one thing when rich people accept that they can shoulder a greater burden; that’s a considered judgment. When those who aren’t going to be impacted by a rate hike sign on to it, it’s not exactly a news flash.

    JJ: Hello… my name is Paul (not really, my name is Tom)… Been working all my life for whatever Peter would give me after he had sucked off whatever he could from me.

    Seriously. I have never yet seen Peter lift a sheet of dry wall, or swing a hammer or wield a screw gun…,

    Work??????? That is what other people do….

    James, are you so myopic that you can not see that the rich do not work? Like raise a sweat? Add value to the market?

    I been makin’ money for other mf’ers all my life.

    Yet, I am the leach.

    Right.

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  58. Nick says:

    @James Joyner: How is a tax hike on the wealthy to pay down debt accrued in the past getting anything?

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  59. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’m saying that, when you propose to rob Peter to pay Paul, you can always count on the support of Paul.

    So the Republicans, at their behest of their corporate puppetmasters, ran up huge bills over the last decade. The Democrats then take office and figure out that, y’know, we actually have to pay these bills at some point, and turn to the wealthy and say hey, would’ja mind wiring us some cash to cover these charges y’all incurred? Oho!, say the rich. You want something for nothing, do you? What damnable cheek! If you want to pay these bills we ran up for our own benefit, why don’t you use your own money rather than expecting us to pay?

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  60. Kylopod says:

    I have never been clear on what “mandate” is supposed to mean. It’s not just that no one has come up with a consistent definition of how big a victory constitutes a mandate, or that the Bush Administration abused the term and rendered it meaningless in 2004. It’s also that it’s vague in what it’s supposed to imply about a party’s ability to govern. I have seen the term used in all the following senses, sometimes in combination: (1) The losing party has a moral obligation to lessen their resistance to the winning party’s agenda (2) Regardless of right or wrong, the losing party will in fact have difficulty standing in the way of that agenda (3) The winning party’s victory is tantamount to an official public endorsement of the party’s agenda.

    It’s that last definition that I see the most often. And that’s part of why claimed “mandates” are almost always delusional, even when the margin is much bigger than Bush’s in 2004. There are numerous reasons for election outcomes other than the public’s views on the candidates’ policy stances. This was perhaps never clearer than in 2010, when exit polls showed that 52% of voters wanted to see the Bush tax cuts on the rich ended. So even the electorate that gave the GOP this historical landslide disagreed with one of its core policy commitments.

    As for the empirical claim that bigger electoral victories increase a party’s ability to push through its agenda, I’m not sure the evidence supports that hypothesis. If there was any modern president who came to office with what could be described as the opposite of a mandate, it was George W. Bush in 2000. But that didn’t stop him from enacting a fairly ambitious agenda in his first term. When he won his second term, however, and called it a “mandate,” that’s when everything began to fall apart, the failure of his Social Security project being the most obvious legislative example. And even Obama’s 7-point victory and electoral landslide in 2008 didn’t enable him to get more than 6 Senators to sign onto his plan to close Guantanamo Bay.

    The fact is, if a policy is unpopular enough, no president will be able to persuade enough members of Congress to enact it, no matter how large or small his margin of victory in the last election was. And if the president’s party doesn’t control Congress, that further limits his powers. The “mandate” is largely rhetorical hokum that members of the winning party use to justify doing what they want to do without having to consider the practical limitations on governance or the minority party’s powers.

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  61. Just Me says:

    James, are you so myopic that you can not see that the rich do not work? Like raise a sweat? Add value to the market?

    Are you actually making the argument that those who make 250k or more aren’t working for a living?

    Now I will grant you that some of them may be living off their wealth without working, but most of those who make 250 k or more do work and some of them at very hard physical labor.

    One of my good friends back from childhood had a father who ran a family business-they were millionaires (although you wouldn’t really know it since they lived in a very modest home and drove normal cars and weren’t obsessed with designer clothes and labels-they were also very generous in the community).

    The business was a plumbing business and her grandfather started it and he worked in his business very hard (not hanging drywall but I would never argue that a plumber doesn’t work hard) and he worked up until his health made him retire in his 70’s. Her dad worked into his 70’s. They employed several people (probably about 25 to 50).

    I am willing to bet there are a lot of wealthy people more like the family I just described, than people lolling about doing absolutely nothing but counting their money.

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  62. An Interested Party says:

    To the victors belong the spoils.

    One of the very few correct things that dip$hit ever typed…it isn’t so much about mandates as it about whoever wins doing whatever the hell he wants until somebody comes along and stops him…

    I am willing to bet there are a lot of wealthy people more like the family I just described, than people lolling about doing absolutely nothing but counting their money.

    And would you also be willing to bet that there are a lot of poor and lower class people who work hard and pay plenty of taxes rather than the stereotype peddled by your fellow travelers about welfare queens and other lazy ne’er do wells who simply suck at the government teat and pay no taxes…

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  63. Just Me says:

    And would you also be willing to bet that there are a lot of poor and lower class people who work hard and pay plenty of taxes rather than the stereotype peddled by your fellow travelers about welfare queens and other lazy ne’er do wells who simply suck at the government teat and pay no taxes…

    I didn’t say anything about welfare queens, but I think it is assuming a lot to declare that the wealthy don’t work for their money.

    The vast majority of wealthy people in the US didn’t inherit their wealth (less than 20% of millionaires inherited their wealth). Also from the same article-about 2/3rds of the non retired millionaires are self employed and working 45 to 55 hours a week.

    http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/s/stanley-millionaire.html

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  64. Rafer Janders says:

    @Just Me:

    I’m one of those who make more than $250K a year. And while I and my colleagues work hard, we don’t really work that hard, at least as compared to how hard construction workers, home health care aides, waitresses, long-haul truckers, fishermen, etc. work.

    It’s intellectually demanding work, sure. But it’s also intellectually stimulating. And I get to work in a lovely office with amazing views, have a secretary and assistants, go to business dinners and conferences, work with smart colleagues, get asked for my opinion on complex issues, and generally spend my days sitting, reading, writing and thinking.

    In short, I’m not suffering.

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  65. Rafer Janders says:

    Now I will grant you that some of them may be living off their wealth without working, but most of those who make 250 k or more do work and some of them at very hard physical labor.

    Almost no one, other than pro athletes, who makes more than $250 thousand a year does any physical labor, hard or not.

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  66. anjin-san says:

    @ Rafer Janders

    Your point is well taken – having rewarding work that pays well and does not trash your body is a wonderful thing, and those who are lucky enough to have it should be thankful, a little bit humble, and prepared to give back. It’s wet and cold in the bay area, and I am heading south for two weeks to play with race cars in the sun – and I get paid for it. I know if I was still in the bar business, I would be in nearly constant pain from too many hours on my feet, and I know guys older than me that are still doing it.

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  67. Just Me says:

    Almost no one, other than pro athletes, who makes more than $250 thousand a year does any physical labor, hard or not.

    Is this your opinion, best guess or fact?

    And are you suggesting that people who aren’t doing physical labor aren’t really working?

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  68. Rafer Janders says:

    @anjin-san:

    Your point is well taken – having rewarding work that pays well and does not trash your body is a wonderful thing, and those who are lucky enough to have it should be thankful, a little bit humble, and prepared to give back.

    Yes. Having had both sorts of of jobs in my life, there is a world of difference between working hard in a high-status job where you are treated with respect and deference and earn lots of money, and working hard in a lower-status job where you don’t have the same sense of control and have no real status or respect and still have to scramble paycheck to paycheck. The former is actually empowering, while the latter can be psychologically and emotionally degrading.

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  69. Rafer Janders says:

    Is this your opinion, best guess or fact?

    As I’ve mentioned before, I work in finance, and during the course of my work I encounter many many high-income individuals with money to invest. In all my years I’ve never met one, other than a pro athlete, who earned their money through hard physical labor.

    And are you suggesting that people who aren’t doing physical labor aren’t really working?

    Aren’t you cute, pretending you don’t understand and that you’re going to win a battle of selective mis-interpretation with someone like me.

    Sure they work – but no harder than anyone else, and often not as hard. Working in an office can be quite grueling, if for example you’re a secretary who has to take a bus and two subway transfers for an hour and a half to get to work, punch in and out, is constantly monitored, and is run ragged by four different bosses with different demands. Being one of those bosses, on the other hand, is much much easier. I know, as I’m one of them.

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  70. john personna says:

    @Kylopod:

    The “mandate” is largely rhetorical hokum that members of the winning party use to justify doing what they want to do without having to consider the practical limitations on governance or the minority party’s powers.

    In a representative democracy, it’s kind of important that legislators understand their true mandate, and not assert it where their own interests lie.

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  71. john personna says:

    (I am using “mandate” in what I think is the broad and appropriates sense. It is the desire of citizens. There are other narrow or semantic definitions, but those are used as a distraction by pols, usually to claim that citizens have some convenient sentiment.)

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  72. Brummagem Joe says:

    Rather a lot of intellectual dishonesty by JJ here. To start with the actual numbers right now are Obama 65.4 million Romney 60.7 million (51% to 47%). Furthermore the Democrats made gains in house and senate and the only reason they didn’t take over the house although they actually won more votes was because of gerrymandered re-districting as everyone knows. It’s also reasonable to say this was one of the major issues in the election, one of Republicans on the ticket was an almost totemic example of the Republican position on taxes and spending. Sorry JJ in this case you are full of it……LOL

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  73. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    “and working hard in a lower-status job where you don’t have the same sense of control and have no real status or respect and still have to scramble paycheck to paycheck.”

    Hard to generalise. While this comment undoubtedly holds true in a lot of cases (fast food workers for example) there are many others situations where it’s less applicable even where people are working in a fairly controlled environment (machinists, auto assembly) let alone situations where there is some independance (plumbers, landscapers, carpenters).

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  74. Rafer Janders says:

    @Brummagem Joe:

    True, but it takes my quote out of context is and completely besides my point, which is specifically to compare hard work when accompanied by high pay and status with hard work when accompanied by low pay and low status, and to show that pay and status can really ameliorate some of the supposed “hardness” of the work. I never said that some types of physical labor can’t provide an independent or satisfying life. I’ll reproduce what I said below:

    Having had both sorts of of jobs in my life, there is a world of difference between working hard in a high-status job where you are treated with respect and deference and earn lots of money, and working hard in a lower-status job where you don’t have the same sense of control and have no real status or respect and still have to scramble paycheck to paycheck. The former is actually empowering, while the latter can be psychologically and emotionally degrading.”

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  75. Rafer Janders says:

    And that aside, even if you’re a machinist, plumber, etc. and enjoy your job, you can still find yourself scrambling paycheck to paycheck, which as anyone who has been in that situation know is intensely draining and stressful. People in my industry, all of whom earn hundreds of thousands to millions a year, don’t have that worry.

    In short: rich is better than poor.

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  76. Rob in CT says:

    So the Republicans, at their behest of their corporate puppetmasters, ran up huge bills over the last decade. The Democrats then take office and figure out that, y’know, we actually have to pay these bills at some point, and turn to the wealthy and say hey, would’ja mind wiring us some cash to cover these charges y’all incurred? Oho!, say the rich. You want something for nothing, do you? What damnable cheek! If you want to pay these bills we ran up for our own benefit, why don’t you use your own money rather than expecting us to pay?

    Nail, meet head.

    Also, I have often wondered about how this lovely little Peter/Paul parable applies to the changes made to the tax code in the 80s. You know, the ones that shifted the tax burden downward? Was Peter picking Paul’s pocket then, or was that ok, because the demon FDR made previously Peter cry?

    ;)

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  77. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    You’re entitled to your opinion but I wouldn’t have said I took your original comment out of context. You just wrote an entirely new paragraph creating a new and clarified context. Then you follow it up with a reductio ad absurdum comparison of people earning hundreds of thousands a year and hundreds of millions. In many ways being a small town plumber or street sweeper is infinitely less stressful than being a 5th year law associate at Sullivan and Cromwell and this includes financial stress.

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  78. Rafer Janders says:

    @Brummagem Joe:

    You’re entitled to your opinion but I wouldn’t have said I took your original comment out of context. You just wrote an entirely new paragraph creating a new and clarified context.

    No, you did take it out of context. My original point was that people in high-status, high-pay jobs don’t work that much harder than anyone else, and in many instances the work is actually less hard because of all the attendant benefits in status, prestige, comfort, etc. that go along with it. Your post that some lower-paying jobs can be enjoyable is somewhat off-point to that.

    you follow it up with a reductio ad absurdum comparison of people earning hundreds of thousands a year and hundreds of millions.

    This is not what reduction ad absurdum means. I also wrote “millions”, not “hundreds of millions”.

    In many ways being a small town plumber or street sweeper is infinitely less stressful than being a 5th year law associate at Sullivan and Cromwell and this includes financial stress.

    Again, that’s not the point, though. The discussion is not whether one lifestyle is more stressful or not, the discussion is responding to Just Me’s claim that the wealthy work for their money. My reply to him or her was that, while we work, we don’t work that hard compared to those lower down the income scale, given that our work is often better paid, more interesting, and attended by far more perks, social status and independence than theirs is.

    And no, it does not include financial stress. a 5th year S&C associate has less financial stress than a street sweeper by definition. That’s the difference between making $250,000 a year and making $16,000 a year.

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  79. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Actually the financial stress on 250k lawyer with a family living in NYC is probably greater than that on a 50k a year small town plumber in OH. And for your info in my small town guys who work as laborers for the town public works dept get paid about 32k not 16k. Millions = multiple millions…..obviously there is no comparison between someone with an income of multiple millions and someone earning 250k You were over generalising in your original comment…..period.

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  80. Rafer Janders says:

    Millions = multiple millions….

    Yes, multiple millions, not “hundreds of millions.” Some people I work with make between $2 million to $10 million a year. That is not the same as “hundreds of millions.”

    .obviously there is no comparison between someone with an income of multiple millions and someone earning 250k

    What are you taking about? I was comparing the economic situation of people who makes hundreds of thousands to millions a year versus those who make tens of thousands.

    Read what I wrote. Then read it again. Because you seem to not be getting it.

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  81. Rafer Janders says:

    Actually the financial stress on 250k lawyer with a family living in NYC is probably greater than that on a 50k a year small town plumber in OH.

    I’ve actually been a $250K plus lawyer in NYC, and the financial stress was…not great. I took vacations to places such as Vail, Hawaii, the Alps, and Bangkok, ate at nice restaurants and had a lovely apartment. And on top of that, I was able to fully fund my 401K and IRA each year, plus save thousands more a month in my bank and brokerage accounts. No $50K plumber in Ohio can do the same. Hell, I was paid more in one bonus check than he made all year.

    And for your info in my small town guys who work as laborers for the town public works dept get paid about 32k not 16k.

    Lovely for them – that’s about $16 an hour. However, a street sweeper in Ohio at minimum wage would make 2,000 hours x $7.70/hour = $15,400/year.

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  82. Rafer Janders says:

    @Brummagem Joe:

    obviously there is no comparison between someone with an income of multiple millions and someone earning 250k

    Also, you mean “there is no equivalence” not “there is no comparison.” There is, in fact, a comparison. You can compare two dissimilar things as well as two similar things.

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  83. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Over generalising again? Your circumstances are not the circumstances of every lawyer working and living in Manhattan. And there was nothing incorrect about the usage of the term comparison in that context.

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  84. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    I’ve actually been a $250K plus lawyer in NYC, and the financial stress was…not great. I took vacations to places such as Vail, Hawaii, the Alps, and Bangkok, ate at nice restaurants

    All this btw is not germane to the relative feelings of financial security experienced by our notional plumber in OH.

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  85. Rafer Janders says:

    @Brummagem Joe:

    Your circumstances are not the circumstances of every lawyer working and living in Manhattan.

    No, but we were not discussing every lawyer living and working in Manhattan. We were discussing every mid-level large-firm associate earning $250,000 plus a year living and working in Manhattan (your own example of “a 5th year law associate at Sullivan and Cromwell”). And there, yes, our financial situations were all approximately the same because we were all paid the same.

    You have a terrible habit of goalpost moving when you sense yourself backed into a corner. You should really get a hold of that.

    And there was nothing incorrect about the usage of the term comparison in that context.

    Yes, there was. Again, read it. Then read it again.

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  86. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    No, but we were not discussing every lawyer living and working in Manhattan.

    Indeed we’re not but you claimed your experience was universal….and the only one moving goalposts here is you since you were in the corner but nice try. And I don’t need to read it again because there’s nothing wrong with making comparisons of degree whether it’s the difference between someone making 250k and 50 million or a player for the Yankees and someone in our local little league team.

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  87. Rafer Janders says:

    @Brummagem Joe:

    Indeed we’re not but you claimed your experience was universal….

    Oh my word you are an idiot. Let’s read what I wrote again: you referenced the example of highly paid lawyers in NYC, and I wrote in response “I’ve actually been a $250K plus lawyer in NYC…” That’s not claiming universality of experience. What I did claim was that I knew quite a bit about the example you’d cited, because I’d been in that group and led that life, and can therefore speak, with evidence and experience, as to what it’s really like. That’s specificity, not universality.

    And I don’t need to read it again because there’s nothing wrong with making comparisons of degree whether it’s the difference between someone making 250k and 50 million or a player for the Yankees and someone in our local little league team.

    What???? Of course there’s nothing wrong with making comparisons of degree — it was you who’d previously written “obviously there is no comparison….” You were rejecting comparisons of degree, not me.

    Now, at this point, it’s fairly clear to me that you are either (a) not that bright or (b) struggling with English. In neither case is it a particularly valuable use of my time to educate you any more so, play away to your heart’s content.

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  88. Rob in CT says:

    Rafer: give up. There is no point.

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  89. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Oh my word you are an idiot. Let’s read what I wrote again: you referenced the example of highly paid lawyers in NYC,

    Can’t resist the ad homs can you…..the sure sign of losing an argument……my ref to a NYC lawyer was as follows and then you claimed your experience as being the norm

    Actually the financial stress on 250k lawyer with a family living in NYC is probably greater than that on a 50k a year small town plumber in OH.

    Onto the grammar…..you said

    Also, you mean “there is no equivalence” not “there is no comparison.”

    I then pointed out there was nothing wrong with the use of the expression “no comparison” in this context which is simply a summary of the degree of difference between two things ……..

    So by all means run away to the hills….. trailing your ad homs behind you…..LOL

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  90. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Rafer: give up. There is no point.

    What a hero.

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  91. Brummagem Joe says:

    And for those with an interest in the English language…….

    com·par·i·son (km-pr-sn)
    n.
    1.
    a. The act of comparing or the process of being compared.
    b. A statement or estimate of similarities and differences.
    2. The quality of being similar or equivalent; likeness:eg. no comparison between the two books

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  92. An Interested Party says:

    …but I think it is assuming a lot to declare that the wealthy don’t work for their money.

    And it is assuming even more to think that the poor are nothing but “moochers” or that they don’t pay their “fair share” in taxes…my point being that while you are insisting on being so charitable towards the wealthy, perhaps you should save some of that sympathy for the poor as they need it far more…

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  93. Just Me says:

    And it is assuming even more to think that the poor are nothing but “moochers” or that they don’t pay their “fair share” in taxes…my point being that while you are insisting on being so charitable towards the wealthy, perhaps you should save some of that sympathy for the poor as they need it far more…

    Once again I have made no generalizations about how much or how little the poor work. Only that it is ridiculous to assert that those who are making 250k or more don’t work.

    And please don’t assume I am wealthy or even comfortably middle class.

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  94. Rob in CT says:

    Joe, how about you actually defend your own assertion:

    Actually the financial stress on 250k lawyer with a family living in NYC is probably greater than that on a 50k a year small town plumber in OH

    You provided absolutely nothing to back this up. This leads me to guess that it’s built on a number of assumptions you’ve made about relative cost of living. But I can only speculate, since you didn’t actually defend your own argument.

    What’s amusing is that if someone else had make this assertion, you’d be posting about people making claims w/o evidence, demanding data, etc. But it was your own assertion, so obviously no backup is required, while Rafer’s first-hand experience of the $250k lawyer in NYC side of it means nothing and he’s guilty of over-generalizing his experience (though his experience matches up with the fairly specific example you conjured). This is why having a conversation with you is frustrating, and results in people just throwing up their hands.

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  95. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Rob in CT:

    As it happens two of my kids and my son in law are lawyers, all went to top law schools, and all practised law at top firms in NYC so it’s not exactly a world that is unknown to me. And again you demonstrate your limited comprehension problems. At absolutely no point did I say his experience meant nothing (perhaps you’d like to show where I did) but that he was over generalising which was my original rather mild complaint which produced a torrent of self justifications, fulminations and denunciations including one rather silly one about my English usage. You may find this kind of bluster persuasive, I don’t. 250k if you have a wife and two or three kids doesn’t go very far in NYC or Palo Alto particularly when there isn’t a lot of job security in the legal/financial industries as has been the case over the last five years. Not an assumption requiring a huge leap of imagination I would have thought.

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  96. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Just Me:

    Only that it is ridiculous to assert that those who are making 250k or more don’t work.

    I agree with you, in my experience those in high paying occupations usually work extremely hard and accept demands on their time and private life that would be considered onerous by my notional plumber in small town OH.

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  97. Rob in CT says:

    Not an assumption requiring a huge leap of imagination I would have thought.

    That’s just it. That’s *exactly* what I’m saying. You make an assertion you think is obviously true, and therefore feel no need to actually back it up. Meanwhile, others make assertions they think are obviously true and you go all “where’s your evidence! You’re overgeneralizing!” and so forth.

    Everybody knows the cost of living in NYC > the cost of living in a small town in Ohio. However, you’re arguing that it’s enough to more than cancel out a 5-fold difference in income. That would, coming from anyone but yourself, result in demands for some sort of evidence.

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  98. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Really you need to understand the difference between a request for evidence supporting some rather unlikely assertions about racism nearly 250 years ago and the totally obvious reality of present day NYC cost of living. And man oh man do you have major, major comprehension problems……..I was not making a specific comparison between the cost of living in small town OH and NYC but rather between the relative financial stress experienced by a notional plumber making 50k in small town OH and say a 38 year old attorney in NYC with wife and three kids making 250k whose lifestyle/expectations/ aspirations are going to be totally different anyway. Do you need diagrams to explain these simple concepts? And as an aside although my point wasn’t strictly about different cost of living if you think 5 times is crazy you might want to compare the purchase price of say a 15-1800 square foot apartment in a reasonable but not super fashionable part of Manhattan and a similar size house in small town OH.

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  99. Rob in CT says:

    It’s funny. You have accused something like 4 different posters here of having reading comprehension problems. The problem isn’t with us, Joe. Look to your own writing.

    I was not making a specific comparison between the cost of living in small town OH and NYC but rather between the relative financial stress experienced by a notional plumber making 50k in small town OH and say a 38 year old attorney in NYC with wife and three kids making 250k whose lifestyle/expectations/ aspirations are going to be totally different anyway

    Are we assuming the plumber likewise has a wife and 3 kids?

    The lifestyle/expectations/aspirations are, of course, at least somewhat within the lawyer’s control. You appear to be saying that, even if the lawyer has more left over money after paying for housing, food, education costs for the kids, and some savings, he’s worse off than the plumber because he expected more. If so, that’s (at least in part) self-inflicted.

    As for real estate costs, I know they’re insane in NYC and low in OH. My brother lives in OH. I live in (relatively expensive but far cheaper than NYC) central CT. I get that. However, if we were to really investigate your claim, we would need to do this (and, of course, more, since housing isn’t the only consideration):

    compare the purchase price of say a 15-1800 square foot apartment in a reasonable but not super fashionable part of Manhattan and a similar size house in small town OH

    Another way to do it would be to compare the two wage levels with the median household income of the area (NYC and… we could pick a relatively rural county in OH).

    Since you made the claim, I figured you might back it up. Apparently you think it’s simply self-evident, so you needn’t bother.

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  100. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Rob in CT:

    You have accused something like 4 different posters here of having reading comprehension problems.

    That’s probably because it’s pretty common which your’re just demonstrating again by not addressing the point I was making about relative financial stress. And whether expectations are self inflicted doesn’t alter their existence and hence contribution to relative financial stress……really you do need diagrams.

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  101. Sahaar says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Another way to do it would be to compare the two wage levels with the median household income of the area (NYC and… we could pick a relatively rural county in OH).

    From the US Census Burea:

    Median household income for Ohio: $48,071
    Median household income for New York City: $56,951

    It does not appear that living costs in NYC can be five times those of Ohio if there’s only a small difference in the median household income.

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  102. Sahaar says:

    Considering that more, a $50K plumber in Ohio would be making almost exactly the same as the median household income for her state, while a $250K lawyer would be making 4.38 times the median household income for NYC.

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  103. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Sahaar:

    What has any of this to do with the relative financial stress experienced by the two examples originally cited. Or have you missed the entire point of this discussion?

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  104. Rob in CT says:

    @Sahaar:

    Thanks for the data (I was working on googling that up when I realized I was late for lunch).

    Joe: it’s not the entire story, but it shows you that ~$250k, even in NYC, is rarified air. Over 4x median income for the area in which you live… if one is stressed about that, I think some perspective might be in order. And again, I grant that NYC real estate is extremely pricey. That closes the gap somewhat. I seriously doubt it closes all of it, let alone tips things such that the plumber is less financially stressed. There are basically two components here: income and expenses. Sahaar provided some data for the income side of things.

    Going back to the expectations/lifestyle argument, people can stress themselves out over anything. Generally, however, I think the financial pressures faced by the theoretical $50k OH plumbers of the world > the financial pressures faced by the $250k NYC lawyers.

    I’ll leave this here.

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