Archive for October 5th, 2008

October 5, 2008

‘The race-baiting progressive playbook’

Taking as his text an Associated Press propaganda piece, Jeff Goldstein conducts a semantics seminar on the “Red Queen” method of liberal demagoguery.

UPDATE: Patterico:

There is literally no argument you can make against this man that will not be countered by cries of racism.
Are you listening, McCain advisors?
I’m told that McCain advisors are reluctant to argue Democratic responsibility for the mortgage crisis, because they might be accused of being racists.
Wake up, McCain advisors. You are already getting accused of racism for making other perfectly legitimate points. Why on God’s green Earth would you hold back on one of the best arguments you can make because someone might play the race card?
Do you people even want to win?

A very good question, but I think it’s being asked too late. It should have been asked before Maverick proposed replacing SEC Chairman Chris Cox with Andrew Cuomo.

October 5, 2008

Team McCain: Afraid of the facts

James Pethokoukis begins a sentence with this remarkable statement: “Here is what Team McCain is telling me . . .” Campaign staffers actually talking to a reporter — wow.

What the campaign staffers actually say is, of course, a total bummer: John McCain is afraid to place the blame for the mortgage crisis where it belongs:

There is a racial component to criticism of the Community Reinvestment Act that can make it sound like you are scapegoating minorities for Wall Street’s problems.

Via Michelle Malkin, whose “ugh” speaks volumes. A government policy that promotes lending to people with bad credit histories is a bad policy. Look at this chart:

Mortgage Delinquency Rates, 2003

Prime:

  • 30 days 2.26%
  • 60 days 0.58%
  • 90 days 0.64%
  • Forclosure: 0.48%

Subprime:

  • 30 days 6.75%
  • 60 days 2.12%
  • 90 days 3.98%
  • Forclosure: 3.38%

So, the total percentage of prime mortgage loans that were at least 30 days in arrears is less than 4%, compared to more than 16% for subprime mortages. When you combine the number 90 days past due and the number in foreclosure status — i.e., what the Federal Reserve Board classifies as “serious delinquency” — the total is 1.12% for prime mortagages, versus 7.36% for subprime. Thus, subprime borrowers are more than six times as likely to be in big trouble on their payments, compared to prime borrowers.

Now, who are subprime borrowers? About 7% of white homebuyers and 9% of Asian homebuyers, according to the FRB, compared to 16% for Native Americans, 19.6% for Hispanics and 27% for blacks. In other words, compared to whites, Native Americans are 2.3 times as likely to be subprime borrowers, Hispanics 2.8 times as likely, and blacks 3.8 times as likely.

Let us make some facts clear: The overwhelming majority of homeowners of every race (e.g., 73% of black homeowners) qualify for prime mortgages, and the overwhelming majority of homeowners of every race also make their mortgage payments on time, whether their loans are prime or subprime. And no homeowner who makes his mortgage payments on time is to blame for the current crisis, whatever their race.

However, a policy that encourages banks to increase the number of home loans to minorities (and threatens to penalize banks that don’t comply) will necessarily have the effect of increasing the number of subprime loans. QED. And because subprime loans have a six-fold greater rate of foreclosure, such a policy will necesarily increase the number of foreclosures. QED.

So, what happened under the Clinton administration, which used the Community Reinvestment Act as a weapon to force lenders to make more home loans to minorities? Between 1994 and 1997, the total value of new mortgages that were subprime increased from $35 billion (4.5% of all new mortgages) to $125 billion (14.5% of all new mortgages). The percentage of subprime mortages shrank thereafter, falling to 8.8% by 2003, but the Bush administration, eager to promote the “ownership society,” did nto reverse the Clinton policy.

This massive expansion of subprime lending sparked a rise in foreclosures. According to one study, more than 16% of subprime mortgages issued in 1999 had entered foreclosure within five years. Of subprime mortgages issued in 2000, 12 percent entered foreclosure within two years.

As troubling as that rise in foreclosure rates might have been, it was not a major financial hazard so long as home prices also kept rising. If someone took out a $120,000 loan in 1999 to buy a $130,000 house and then defaulted in 2004 (as 16% of subprime borrowers did), the rising housing market meant the bank could still recoup the full loan value. Once the housing bubble burst in 2006, however, most of these short-term foreclosures involved borrowers who were “upside down,” owing more principle than the house could bring at resale.

Liberals have blamed all this on “predatory lending,” but it was federal policy, begun under the Clinton administration, that encouraged such practices. By enforcing what were, in effect, racial quotas for the mortgage industry, this policy encouraged lending to a greater percentage minority clients with shaky credit and smaller down payments, who could not possibly qualify for regular mortgages and instead ended up with adjustable rates, “balloon payments,” etc.

To speak bluntly about these facts is not, as McCain staffers told Pethokoukis, “scapegoating minorities,” most of whom pay their mortgages on time. It is bad policy that is to blame, and the fact that this bad policy was intended to benefit minorities ought not make it exempt from criticism.

This is certainly not the first time that liberals pursuing good intentions have enacted bad policies and then tried to blame the failure on conservatives. And unless conservatives stand up to such tactics — which is what the McCain campaign is afraid to do — liberalism triumphs, Democrats win and more bad policies will be the result.

October 5, 2008

Albatross sighting

When Hugh Hewitt headlines an item, “With One Month To Go: Why McCain Will Close and Win,” you can safely conclude that Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States.

Hewitt spent October 2006 telling his readers that, despite all evidence to the contrary, Republicans were going to come back and win, maintaining their majority in the mid-term elections. Wrong. He then jumped aboard the Mitt Romney bandwagon, which should have been regarded as a sure omen that Romney wouldn’t win the GOP nomination.

The man is not a conservative, he’s a Republican Party cheerleader. When Republicans win, Hewitt takes credit for having led the pre-game pep rally. So why not make him the scapegoat for the impending GOP defeat? It’s only fair.

October 5, 2008

Palin on Michigan: ‘I wanna try!’

Blown out by Obama’s attack ads in Michigan — see here and here — the McCain campaign hoisted the white flag Thursday, a move that I argued amounts to concession of Republican defeat nationwide Nov. 4. Sarah Palin offers to fight it out in Michigan:

Sarah’s a gamer, but McCain’s high-profile support of the unpopular bailout bill has doomed him. He performed poorly in the Sept. 26 debate, and even if he were to perform better in Tuesday’s debate, his bailout stance turned independents decisively against him.

There simply aren’t enough undecided voters left to persuade. Of 11 national polls published since the first debate, five show Obama at 50% or better, including both the Gallup and Rasmussen tracking polls — and none show him below 48%. John McCain has been weighed in the balance and found wanting.

This election is over and, despite my profound respect and deep admiration for Mark Levin, denial is not a strategy:

“If we don’t engage now, four and a half weeks out, then when are we going to engage? When it’s too late?”

Mr. Levin, sir, “we” are not responsible for the blunderheaded peregrinations of a candidate whose response to the mortgage crisis was to suggest that SEC Chairman Chris Cox be fired and replaced with Andrew Cuomo (who has “respect” and “prestige”).

Good candidates win elections. Bad candidates lose elections. If conservatives are to be true to their rhetoric of responsibility and accountability, then we must agree that John McCain is responsible for his own campaign.

The McCain campaign has spent something like $200 million to lose this election. If you’re going to insist on blaming someone other than the candidate for his defeat, why not start by blaming the advisers, consultants and top staffers who’ve enriched themselves as architects of this debacle?

Don’t blame me for being the bearer of bad news. I’m a journalist, and it’s not my job to pretend that a train wreck is anything other than a train wreck.

October 5, 2008

Coleman +10 or -9?

Friday, one poll showed Republican Sen. Norm Coleman leading by 10 points in Minnesota. Saturday, another poll showed Coleman’s Democratic challenger Al Franken leading by nine points.

Obviously, both polls cannot be right. The phrasing or sequence of questions can influence answers. Beyond that, there was one difference in the two polls: The poll released Friday was conducted Tuesday and Wednesday, while the poll released Saturday also included surveys taken Thursday, after Coleman voted for the unpopular bailout.

October 5, 2008

Britney: No sex for 6 months!

Interrupting her ongoing project to sleep with every sleazy lowlife on the planet:

Britney Spears’ parents have reportedly slapped a six-month sex ban on their daughter to prevent any bumps in the road on her way back to the top.
Fiercely protective Jamie and Lynne Spears feel that Britney’s downfall was linked to the men in her life and want their daughter to refrain from any male contact for a while.
With two failed marriages, a relationship with paparazzo Adnan Ghalib and reports of a supposed sex tape, the troubled star’s questionable taste in men has often come back to haunt her.

Scummy guys should take a number and stand in line, because when April rolls around, Britney will be ready to make up for lost time.

Remember: When in doubt, blog about Britney!

UPDATE: Or Lindsey Lohan who, despite being a lesbian, nevertheless wants to be a mom.

October 5, 2008

NYT & the art of partisan propaganda

One of the pet conceits of liberal journalism is that when Republicans win elections, they win by deceptive campaign tactics. When Democrats win elections, they win on issues, and the election of Democrats is thus always an endorsement of liberal policies. The New York Times:

The turmoil on Wall Street and the weakening economy are changing the contours of the presidential campaign map, giving new force to Senator Barack Obama’s ambitious strategy to make incursions into Republican territory, while leading Senator John McCain to scale back his efforts to capture Democratic states. . . .
[McCain’s] decision last week to pull out of Michigan reflected in part the challenge that the declining economy has created for Republicans, given that they have held the White House for the last eight years.

Go back to early September, when John McCain was surging in the polls, and try to find any story in which the New York Times cast the GOP advantage in terms of issues. Good luck trying.

But did campaign tactics have nothing to do with Obama’s moving ahead in Michigan? In the second week of September, two polls showed McCain leading in Michigan. On Sept. 17, Obama launched a new ad in Michigan:

“McCain would give $4 billion in new tax breaks to Big Oil” — effective demagoguery tying the Republican to a ready-made villain. But this tactic had nothing to do with McCain’s Michigan meltdown, according to the New York Times. And check out this ad that Obama rolled out in Michigan Sept. 23:

Oooh! The rich man with 17 cars — including three foreign-made cars! But this Obama campaign tactic of appealing to class envy and economic xenophobia had nothing to do with McCain’s debacle in Michigan. No, the election is about the “challenge that the declining economy has created for Republicans,” and will be sold by the NY Times and the rest of the MSM as a mandate for liberal economic policies.

Again, go back to 2002 and 2004, years when Republicans were triumphant, and see if you can find where the NY Times interpreted those victories as a mandate to overturn Roe v. Wade or prosecute the Iraq war to victory. Good luck!

October 5, 2008

NYT on Ayers-Obama connection

UPDATED & BUMPED: Whitewash, says Stanley Kurtz:

The piece serves as a platform for the Obama campaign and Obama’s friends and allies. Obama’s spokesman and supporters’ names are named and their versions of events are presented in detail, with quotes. Yet the article makes no serious attempt to present the views of Obama critics who have worked to uncover the true nature of the relationship. That makes this piece irresponsible journalism, and an obvious effort by the former paper of record to protect Obama from the coming McCain onslaught.

Read the whole thing.

PREVIOUSLY: They dump it on a Saturday, and bury it under a lot of ultra-boring oatmeal, but at least it’s there:

The Ayers-Obama connection first came to public attention last spring, when both Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton, Mr. Obama’s Democratic primary rival, and Mr. McCain brought it up. It became the subject of a television advertisement in August by the anti-Obama American Issues Project and drew new attention recently on The Wall Street Journal’s op-ed page and elsewhere as the archives of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge at the University of Illinois were opened to researchers.
That project was part of a national school reform effort financed with $500 million from Walter H. Annenberg, the billionaire publisher and philanthropist and President Richard M. Nixon’s ambassador to the United Kingdom. Many cities applied for the Annenberg money, and Mr. Ayers joined two other local education activists to lead a broad, citywide effort that won nearly $50 million for Chicago.

The content of the story, and its purpose, can be summed up: “Nothing to see here. Move along.”

UPDATE: VodkaPundit and Tom Maguire have more analysis. Based on my own newsroom experiences, I’d say this story got edited and rewritten several times on its way to publication. There is an editor or editors at the New York Times who made sure that anything in this story that might have reflected negatively on Obama was qualified or counterbalanced.

I’m betting that the reporter on the story spent a lot of time arguing with his bosses about this, and is unhappy with the way it was rewritten. Not only that, but I’ll bet the story was “held” at least two days in the process. There is nothing time-sensitive in the story, and I’m guessing the reporter had it ready Monday or Tuesday, spent a day or two hassling with his editors over rewrites, and then the story was purposefully delayed so that it would publish on a Saturday — historically, the lowest circulation day in the newspaper business.

But never mind — the whole point of the story is to give the NY Times a fig leaf, so they can’t be accused of ignoring the Obama-Ayers connection. It’s a token gesture of “fairness.”

October 5, 2008

Headline of the week

Sudden outbreak of democracy
baffles US pundits

That’s from a column about the bailout by Andrew Orlowski, which includes these insights:

It was the moment that politicians dread the most. This was not merely an outbreak of popular discontent, but a phenomenon which breaks down those convenient labels the political marketing people like to use, to shield their masters from people’s true desires and intentions. Not just coarse labels like “Left” and “Right” – but the really dumb, patronizing demographic ones like “Soccer Mom” and the nadir of modern politics, those found in Mark Penn’s “Microtrends.” Niche marketers will have to start from scratch.
Conservatives, libertarians, and lefties all raised objections to the Bailout for very sound reasons of their own. The idea that the state should bail out feckless private enterprises offended both conservatives and libertarians, who take moral responsibility seriously. The left wanted their traditional adversaries put in jail, not given a gift of new lease of life with the public’s money.

(Hat tip to my friend Terry Kane.) This point about the left’s class-envy hostility toward the wealthy is important in understanding contemporary political psychology.

Liberal rhetoric — not just from politicians, but from news media and in popular culture — demonizes the wealthy, especially corporations and their executives. While our culture celebrates the fabulous lifestyles of athletes, movie stars and pop musicians, it vilifies executives and investors. Why? The conception of executives as “the boss” appeals to the resentment that many employees have for their supervisors.

Back in the mid-’80s, I worked for nearly two years as a forklift driver, and it was difficult for the guys on the loading dock, sweating in their hard hats, to understand why they’re paid less than the guys wearing ties sitting in those air-conditioned offices. And when I got into the newspaper business, it was hard for the reporters who were out covering the beats to understand why they were paid less than the editor and publisher.

To many workers, there is sort of a cargo-cult mentality about management, as if managers and executives were born into a separate category and the external accoutrements of management — the office, the business suit, attending meetings, etc. — were caste symbols. Many people never seem to comprehend two basic facts:

  • Management involves aptitudes and skills that most people don’t have, and requires long hours performing tasks that most people disdain. Filling out paperwork, scheduling tasks, dealing with personnel hassles and preparing budgets — lower-level managers spend years doing that kind of mind-numbing crap in order to work their way up to mid-level managers from which executive ranks are filled. The guy who emerges atop such a pyramid must be excellent at doing stuff like that that most people can’t do, and frankly wouldn’t want to do.
  • A good manager is extremely valuable. The guy who’s pulling orders on the warehouse floor can be replaced with a call to any temporary labor agency (I got my forklift driver job through a temp agency). Just about anybody can learn to drive a forklift. But the guy in the warehouse manager’s office cannot be so easily replaced, and the difference between an effective manager and an ineffective manage has more impact on the profitability of an enterprise than does the difference in skill between two forklift drivers. And because one of a manager’s key jobs is to evaluate personnel and productivity, the good manager is the guy who makes sure that the company hires and retains the best forklift drivers.

Class-warfare rhetoric that demonizes corporate executives and “the rich” as agents of injustice, profiting unfairly by immoral schemes, plays upon the common workplace resentment of “bosses” and misunderstanding of what it is that management does. And this is the raison d’etre of the Democratic Party’s existence.

That’s why I get angry any time a Republican utters class-warfare rhetoric. You can’t promote conservatism by echoing a liberal message. A rhetoric that educates the public about the nature of free enterprise and celebrates the successes of the market economy — the sort of thing at which Ronald Reagan excelled — is necessary to the conservative project.

Markets work, government doesn’t — that is, or should be, the economic message of the Republican Party. The failure of the government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is a textbook example of what happens when government meddles in the private economy. If there are swindlers and con men in the mortgage and real-estate businesses, their potential harm to the economy would be limited, so long as they only had access to private capital. It was the implicit government guarantee of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that enabled them to engage in unsound practices that threatened a global economic meltdown.

It’s hardly surprising that John McCain’s poll numbers are in the toilet, given his lashing out against “reckless conduct, corruption, and unbridled greed . . . on Wall Street.” Republicans never get elected by espousing the Democratic Party message.

October 5, 2008

‘Progress’ as a verb

During Thursday’s debate with Joe Biden, Sarah Palin spoke this 68-word run-on sentence:

“There have been times where, as mayor and governor, we have passed budgets that I did not veto and that I think could be considered as something that I quasi-caved in, if you will, but knowing that it was the right thing to do in order to progress the agenda for that year and to work with the legislative body, that body that actually holds the purse strings.”

The governor’s habit of using “progress” as an active verb annoys Alaska humorist Leinad Moolb. To me, it’s no worse than the awful construction “grow the economy” that became commonplace in the ’90s.