October 20, 2011
Wayne Newton endorses Michele Bachmann!
Just one quick thought, Wayne. Botox kills. Face cells. Brain cells. And soul cells.
Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Wayne Newton endorses Michele Bachmann!

Just one quick thought, Wayne. Botox kills. Face cells. Brain cells. And soul cells.

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

September 22, 2011
Five things to know for the Google Debate


Welcome to the Fox News-Google Debate, the third in fifteen days for the GOP presidential hopefuls and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson’s first trip to the debate stage with the national spotlight firmly on the primary. 

Decoder has prepped debate primers before - see our tea party debate primer, and Iowa debate bit - but this time we’ve lassoed some of Tumblr’s most interesting political commentators for their perceptions, expectations and questions about tonight’s debate. (For the questions they would ask, see our prior post with commentary from Bart Hinckle, MostlyPolitical and HipsterLibertarian.)

Below, you’ll hear from:

1. Will anybody knock the Perry-Romney showdown narrative off track?

For a view of the debate from 10,000 feet, who else would you turn to but a Political Prof?

Will anything happen that destabilizes the media narrative that it’s a Perry vs. Romney race? Nothing - not Ron Paul’s standing in the polls, not the exclusion of candidates like Gary Johnson, has managed to break through the media frame that it is a two-person race for the nomination. Two candidates have been anointed months before a single Republican votes. This isn’t reporting. It’s taking charge. Will this tale get knocked off track?

2. Will social media doohickeys and other debate gizmos obscure the discussion?

Take it away, Ernie of Shortformblog:

To put it simply, tonight’s debate should prove interesting from the perspective of attention spans — who gets the time to talk? That doesn’t just break down to the politicians on the podium (though clearly Rick Perry and Mitt Romney will get most of it), but to the crowd and to all the social media doodads that made the first CNN debate a teeth-gritting experience.

Google is actually sponsoring this event, assuring we’re going to see some of this social media seep in. But it can’t be social media for the sake of it. These voters have real questions to ask these candidates, from Perry on down, and we worry that questions from YouTube users and instant polls of social media users take away from the debates.

You know who we’d like to see sponsor one of these events? Politifact. Instant fact checking? That would be awesome. Instead, we’re in serious danger of getting distracted from the real issue at hand, which is that in 14 months, we’re going to have to vote for one of these people, and we need to know more about them than if they prefer iPhones over BlackBerrys. We hope Fox News finds a balance

3. Ron Paul has a fellow libertarian candidate on stage for the first time - Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico. Johnson is more eloquent than Paul, in Evilteabagger’s estimation, but “needs to make sure he can portray himself as more than the ‘Pot Candidate.’” Moreover,

Read More

(Source: dcdecoder)

June 28, 2011
Fact Checking Michele Bachmann

Glenn Kessler at The Washington Post has done a nice job fact checking Michele Bachmann. Not that any of this is a giant surprise, but here you go:
Announcement speech, June 27
  • “Five decades ago in America, we had less debt than we have today. We had $300 billion or less in debt. A gallon of gasoline was 31 cents and owning a home was part of the American dream. Today, that debt stands at over $14 trillion. A gallon of gas is outrageously expensive and unfortunately, too many millions of Americans know what it is to have a home that’s in foreclosure.”

Context matters a lot when you use numbers. In this case, Bachmann creates a false impression by using figures from a half-century ago without adjusting for inflation or other factors. 

So, 31 cents in 1961 actually translates to about $2.25 in today’s dollars. That’s still cheaper than a gallon of gas today — about $3.64 nationwide — but not 10 times cheaper.

There’s a similar problem with Bachmann’s reference to $300 billion in national debt. That sounds puny compared to today’s $14 trillion in debt, but the right way to measure debt is as a percentage of the gross domestic product, which is the broadest measure of the nation’s economy.

According to the historical tables of the White House budget office (table 7.1), $300 billion was 55 percent of GDP in 1961.

 As of June 23, the total debt was $14.34 trillion, according to the Treasury Department debt meter. Meanwhile, the gross domestic product, as of March 31, was $15.02 trillion, according to the Commerce Department. That’s a ratio of 96 percent, which is certainly pretty bad, but again, not as dramatic a difference as Bachmann suggested.

 In both of these cases, Bachmann could have made valid points about gasoline prices and the debt without resorting to using out-of-context figures.

  •  “And we can’t afford four more years of a foreign policy with a president who leads from behind and who doesn’t stand up for our friends like Israel, and who too often fails to stand against our enemies.”

Bachmann barely touched on foreign policy in her speech, and she does not really explain her comment on Israel. Bachmann has mischaracterized Obama’s position on Israel in the past. Obama has certainly had tensions with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over the strategy for peace talks with the Palestinians, but at the same time both countries say security and military ties have never been closer.

  •  “In February 2009, President Obama was very confident that his economic policies would turn the country around within a year. He said, and I quote, ‘A year from now, I think people are going to see that we’re starting to make some progress. If I don’t have this done in three years, then there’s going to be a one-term proposition.’ Well, Mr. President, your policies haven’t worked. Spending our way out of the recession hasn’t worked. And so Mr. President, we take you at your word.”

This quote is from an interview that President Obama had with NBC News about two weeks after taking office. But Bachmann leaves out a few crucial words that undercut her claim that he was “very confident” that his policies would turn around the country “within a year.”

Here’s is Obama’s full statement, with the missing words in bold: “A year from now, I think people are going to see that we’re starting to make some progress, but there is still going to be some pain out there. If I don’t have this done in three years, then there’s going to be a one-term proposition.”

Bachmann on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” June 26
  • “No, I haven’t misled people at all. I think the question would be asked of President Obama, when you told the American people that, if we borrow $1 trillion from other countries and spend it on a stimulus, that we won’t have unemployment go above 8 percent, and today, as we are sitting here, it’s 9.1 percent and the economy is tanking — that is what’s serious. That’s a very serious statement that the president made.”

Host Bob Schieffer challenged Bachmann’s history of misstatements in the past — citing, alas, our friends at Politifact — and strangely enough, she responded with yet another misleading statement.

The president never made any statement  suggesting that the stimulus legislation — which totaled about $800 billion, not $1 trillion — would prevent unemployment from going up beyond 8 percent. Bachmann is referring to a projection issued Jan. 9, 2009 — before Obama even took the oath of office — by two aides: Christina Romer, the nominee to head the Council of Economic Advisers, and Jared Bernstein, an incoming economic adviser to Vice President-elect Biden.

The 14-page report thus was not an official government assessment, nor even an analysis of an actual plan that had passed Congress. Instead, it was an attempt to assess the impact of a possible $775 billion stimulus package and what difference it would make compared to doing nothing. The president-elect had articulated a goal of passing a plan that would “save or create 3 million jobs by the end of 2010.”

Page 5 of the report included a chart that showed that unemployment would peak at 8 percent in 2009, compared to 9 percent in 2010 if nothing was done. But the report also contained numerous caveats and warnings because, after all, it was merely a projection. At the time, other economists had similar forecasts — Romer and Bernstein were in the mid-range — but the economy turned out to be in deeper trouble than most people thought.

 In any case, Obama never said that.

  • "It’s ironic and sad that the president released all of the oil from the Strategic Oil Reserve because the president doesn’t have an energy policy."

This is a huge overstatement. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve has 727 million barrels of oil, and the Obama administration announced last week that the U.S. will release 30 million barrels of oil from the reserve. (Another 30 million barrels will be released by European countries.)

So she’s off by a factor of 25.

  • “Under Barack Obama the last two years, the number of federal limousines for bureaucrats has increased 73 percent in two years.”

 This assertion elicited a chuckle from Schieffer, who questioned whether this really amounts to much money. Bachmann’s statistic comes from a report by iwatch news, a Web site from the Center on Public Integrity, but the full article provides a lot of context missing from Bachmann’s statement.

For instance, much of the increase came in Obama’s first eight months in office, so the purchases could have reflected requests made by the Bush administration.

Another problem is that the General Services Administration says the numbers are not reliable because the term “limousine” is not defined and so it could include protective duty vehicles- — not fancy cars to ferry what Bachmann called “bureaucrats.”

 Bachmann on “Fox News Sunday,” June 26

  • “What I want to do is to make sure that that we fully repeal ‘Obamacare.’ This will be one of the largest spending initiatives we will ever see in our country, and also it will take away choice from the American people. It will hurt senior citizens, because Obama took away $500 billion, as you say, from Medicare and will transfer it to younger people in ‘Obamacare.’ ”

Host Chris Wallace, who later apologized for suggesting that Bachmann was “a flake,” tried to engage Bachmann on the question of how she could complain about cuts in anticipated growth of Medicare spending in the new health care law when the new House Republican budget largely adopts those very same cuts, but she kept dodging his question.

We have examined this issue before, giving Bachmann two Pinocchios for suggesting seniors who suffer at the hands of the youth. As we wrote: “It’s rather rich for Republicans to complain about $500 billion in supposed cuts to Medicare that they themselves would retain, even under the cover of helping Medicare.”

  • “But even worse, the Congressional Budget Office is saying that we will lose 800,000 jobs with ‘Obamacare’. When we’re in a situation now, where we have massive job loss, this is not what we want to do with ‘Obamacare.’ ”

Bachmann once again repeated this 800,000 job claim, another issue we have repeatedly tried to clarify. However, she does better than she did in the recent GOP debate, when she said the health care law would “kill 800,00 jobs.” This time, she said, the economy would “lose 800,000,” which is technically correct but is not necessarily a bad thing.

The Congressional Budget Office last August estimated that the new health care law over the next decade would reduce the number of overall workers in the United States by one-half of one percent. The CBO did not use a number, but that estimate effectively translates into 800,000 people.

(Note: Bachmann’s use of the word “massive” to describe a figure that is just one-half of one percent is a bit absurd.)

 In dry economic language, the CBO essentially said that some people who are now in the workforce because they need health insurance would decide to stop working because the health care law guaranteed they would have access to health care. (As an example, think of someone who is 63, a couple of years before retirement, who is still in a job only because he or she is waiting to get on Medicare at age 65.)

These jobs would disappear, not to be replaced, so there is an intellectually defensible argument that one could make that this is bad for the economy; others, however, might argue that this is a small price worth paying for universal health care. 

We realize that this is difficult concept for non-economists to grasp. Many readers have written wondering why new, younger workers would not fill those jobs, but the CBO maintains that the number of overall jobs in the United States would shrink. In any case, politicians shouldn’t be tossing around this figure — this is really a rather vague prediction of something that might happen in the future.

June 23, 2011
Random Observation #43

As Michele Bachmann’s star has risen, Sarah Palin has seemingly dropped off the political radar.

I wonder whether this is a sign of Bachmann’s strength, is evidence of systemic bias such that only one woman at a time can be assigned the role of “serious” contender for President, or is a symptom of the degree to which the punditocracy (media, political figures and bloggers) have come to treat to Sarah Palin as a “(wo)man bites dog” story: good filler on a slow day, but otherwise not worth paying much attention to.

In any case, it doesn’t bode well for the length or depth of Sarah Palin’s political career.

January 26, 2011

Michele Bachmann’s Tea Party response to the State of the Union Address.

Three quick thoughts:

—First, this is an object lesson in how not to read a teleprompter.

—Second, parsing data is a great trick. She points to unemployment pre-collapse under Bush, and to unemployment post-collapse under Obama, and attributes the difference to Obama. Well, no.

She pulls the same trick with the deficit chart. About half the ‘09 deficit is Bush’s stimulus package; she attributes all of it to Obama. This is not to say there aren’t serious long-term deficit problems in the US, just that she’s cheating the numbers to political effect.

—Third, when she tells the story of Iwo Jima at the end, she describes the GIs who raised the flag against all odds in a battle against a totalitarian enemy. Ignoring the fact that the flag was raised by Marines, who are not referred to as GIs, there is a far more sinister moment here: she asks the American people to help her in this new fight. Against, it appears, the totalitarian government of the United States.