Washington Monthly’s “What If He Loses?” Series

The image above is from the Washington Monthly’s special feature, “What If He Loses?”, where they asked several writers to discuss what things will look like if President Obama loses the Presidential election this year.

They were kind enough to ask me to talk about financial regulation.  I was even more excited to contribute when I heard the lineup – there’s Dave Weigel on Tea Party influence. Tom Mann and Norm Ornstein on Congress. Dahlia Lithwick on the Courts. James Traub on foreign policy. David Roberts on the environment. Harold Pollack on health care. And Jonathan Bernstein on campaign promises.  A great group of people who have put together some really interesting articles.

Jonathan Bernstein genuinely changed what I thought about campaign promises, which I just assumed aren’t that important.  Bernstein:

Political scientists, however, have been studying this question for some time, and what they’ve found is that out-and-out high-profile broken pledges like George H. W. Bush’s are the exception, not the rule. That’s what two book-length studies from the 1980s found. Michael Krukones in Promises and Performance: Presidential Campaigns as Policy Predictors (1984) established that about 75 percent of the promises made by presidents from Woodrow Wilson through Jimmy Carter were kept. In Presidents and Promises: From Campaign Pledge to Presidential Performance (1985), Jeff Fishel looked at campaigns from John F. Kennedy through Ronald Reagan. What he found was that presidents invariably attempt to carry out their promises; the main reason some pledges are not redeemed is congressional opposition, not presidential flip-flopping. Similarly, Gerald Pomper studied party platforms, and discovered that the promises parties made were consistent with their postelection agendas. More recent and smaller-scale papers have confirmed the main point: presidents’ agendas are clearly telegraphed in their campaigns…

So why are most Americans (and many members of the working press) so skeptical of campaign promises? One reason is that we tend to care a lot when promises are broken, and so those examples get a lot more attention than do the ones that are redeemed, which often can seem by the time they are finally acted on as foregone conclusions, not news.

Check it all out.  From Mann/Ornstein, what it’ll look like if the GOP controls the Presidency and both branches of Congress:

So here is one plausible governing scenario for 2013: After an election in which Republicans prevail, a lame-duck President Obama in December of 2012 lets all the Bush tax cuts from 2001 and 2003 expire. Starting in January of 2013, House Republicans begin a process not only to reinstate all those tax cuts but to forcefully roll back government…So the House passes a budget that is akin to Paul Ryan’s plan, one that massively cuts taxes while repealing most elements of the Affordable Care Act, moving Medicare toward a premium support system for private insurance, turning Medicaid into a block grant to the states and eventually cutting its federal funding by as much as 35 percent, and enacting draconian cuts in discretionary domestic spending.

Because that bill, like the Ryan plan, would vastly widen the deficit, it runs into a problem when it moves to the Senate. According to the “Byrd Rule,” any budget bill that increases the deficit cannot be brought up under reconciliation— the process that allows budget bills to be voted on without being first subject to sixty-vote supermajority “cloture” votes….But the new Senate majority leader, Mitch Mc- Connell, has two precedents to rely on: the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, both adopted under reconciliation (the latter on a 50-50 vote, with Vice President Cheney breaking the tie). He pushes the 2013 bill through reconciliation.

Fun, scary stuff.  I recommend reading it all.

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One Response to Washington Monthly’s “What If He Loses?” Series

  1. Steve says:

    Of course, if Obama had used reconciliation to get any of his program through that would have been a gross abuse of power. Then again, why didn’t he? It’s a given that Republicans use any tool available to them to advance their cause. Why do Democrats ignore this obvious and powerful tool?

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