Wonkbook: Newt Gingrich's elite anti-elitism

at 08:16 AM ET, 01/23/2012

Newt Gingrich served in Congress from 1979 to 1999. After he resigned his seat, he settled down in McLean, VA and sought to forge a new career as one of Washington's highly paid, widely respected, wise men. He began his Center for Health Transformation and consulted for Freddie Mac. He filmed anti-global warming commercials with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and co-authored New York Times op-eds with Sen. John Kerry. He served on the bipartisan U.S. Commission on National Security and as co-chair of a task force on UN reform. Newt Gingrich has, in other words, been a key player in Washington since Jimmy Carter was president. Yet in his victory speech in South Carolina, he blasted "the elites in Washington and New York." If Newt Gingrich is not a Washington elite, no one is.


Republican presidential candidate and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich speaks during a campaign stop at Tommy's Ham House on Jan. 21 in Greenville, South Carolina. (John W. Adkisson - GETTY IMAGES)
And yet, after three decades among them, Gingrich certainly is not the candidate of Washington elites. Quite the opposite, actually. "It may be implausible that Gingrich can pose as anti-establishment," wrote the Washington Examiner's Tim Carney. "But the establishment is certainly anti-Newt." Well, the party establishment, anyway. For all Gingrich's attacks on the media, the media rather loves Gingrich, as he makes for good television, and gives good quotes.

The question is how much that actually matters. I tend to buy into the prevailing wisdom among political scientists that party elites exert enormous influence over primaries. If the party is against you, it's hard to get much in the way of money, staff or endorsements. If the party is against you, the op-ed pages fill with denunciations of your heterodoxies and ineffectualness, and the attacks on you go largely unanswered by the people with the credibility and standing to swat them away. All of this, and more, has happened to Gingrich. The Republican Party's mobilization against him has been overwhelming and, in Iowa, it appeared to work.

But as Omar said, "you come at the king, you best not miss." And the establishment missed. Gingrich wasn't finished off in Iowa. Mitt Romney hasn't been able to close the deal. Rick Santorum hasn't been able to attract real enthusiasm. And it's now broadly understood that a vote for Gingrich is a vote against the powers-that-be. That's weird, to be sure: the candidate who has been in Washington the longest, who has spent the most time on the Sunday shows, who has the deepest rolodex of New York media elites, who has been third-in-line for the presidency, is running as some kind of insurgent. But that's where we are.

Top stories

1) President Obama previewed his State of the Union address in a message to supporters, reports Jackie Calmes: "President Obama will use his election-year State of the Union address on Tuesday to argue that it is government’s role to promote a prosperous and equitable society, drawing a stark contrast between the parties in a time of deep economic uncertainty. In a video preview e-mailed to millions of supporters on Saturday, as South Carolina Republicans went to the polls to help pick an alternative to him, Mr. Obama promised a populist 'blueprint for an American economy that’s built to last,' with the government assisting the private sector and individuals to ensure 'an America where everybody gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share and everybody plays by the same set of rules.'...On Tuesday, Mr. Obama will flesh out his populist message with new proposals to spur manufacturing, including tax breaks for companies that 'insource' jobs back to the United States; to double-down on clean-energy incentives; and to improve education and job training initiatives, especially for the millions of long-term unemployed, the officials familiar with the speech said."

@GlennKesslerWP: New #FactChecker: How did Obama's proposals in last year's State of the Union do over 2011? We provide an accounting. http://t.co/2BEbXZGd

2) Mitt Romney will release his 2010 tax returns, reports Sandhya Somashekhar: "Hoping to put to rest the mounting controversy over his personal finances, Mitt Romney said Sunday that he will release his 2010 tax returns and an estimate for 2011 Tuesday. The Republican presidential candidate had said previously that he would make some of his tax information public in April...The decision comes a day after Romney’s campaign sustained a blow in South Carolina, where former House speaker Newt Gingrich won the state’s primary after a last-minute surge. Romney had been the front-runner in the polls there just a week ago, but Gingrich finished more than 12 percentage points ahead of him...Romney said he plans to post his tax documents on his campaign Web site Tuesday, but it is unclear whether the disclosure will satisfy his critics. In Thursday’s debate, CNN moderator John King noted that Romney’s father, George Romney, released 12 years of tax returns during his presidential run."

FLASHBACK: When Gov. George Romney released his tax returns in 1968, he handed over 12 years worth of documents. “One year could be a fluke, perhaps done for show,” he said. http://wapo.st/yAtUUC

@BuzzFeedBen : Releasing the 2010 returns is just blood in the water. What about the previous 20 years?

3) Romney differs from his top economic advisers on key issues, reports Jim Tankersley: "Romney issued a 59-point economic plan with fanfare last September. The platform contradicts landmark findings on monetary and housing policies published in 2011 by his top two economic advisers: Glenn Hubbard, the dean of Columbia University’s business school; and N. Gregory Mankiw, a Harvard University professor and the author of the nation’s most widely used college economics textbook. Mankiw and a coauthor called last spring for the Federal Reserve Board to goose consumer demand by easing monetary policy--as the Fed did--in unconventional ways. Last fall, Hubbard and two collaborators argued for reducing the interest rates on 30 million home mortgages to strengthen the housing market, which economists increasingly see as the greatest drag on domestic economic growth. But in both cases, Romney has vowed to pursue the opposite course."

@ObsoleteDogma: Mankiw & Hubbard are both very smart...but do you really want two of the architects of the Bush economy?

4) Obama's pledge to double exports is on track, but perhaps not for long, reports Annie Lowrey: "Two years ago, President Obama popped a surprise into his State of the Union address: His administration would double American exports in five years, helping to create two million jobs. The bold promise sent the eyebrows of economists and policy experts upward, even as they applauded its intent...Two years later, the administration is on track -- for now -- to meet its ambitious goal. Growing exports have been one of the central drivers of the recovery, accounting for about half the nation’s economic growth since the recession ended. Economists say the administration deserves credit for some of the gains...Exports are running at about $180 billion a month, according to Commerce Department data, up from $140 billion a month two years ago. They are currently growing at an annual pace of about 16 percent -- a percentage-point higher than necessary to double exports to $3.1 trillion by 2015."

5) New memos show Obama facing the realities of governing in a partisan world, reports Ryan Lizza: "There were two ways for the Senate to approach Obama’s health-care plan: the normal process, which required sixty votes to pass the bill, or a shortcut known as 'reconciliation,' which required only a simple majority and would bypass a possible filibuster. Baucus and several other key Senate Democrats opposed reconciliation, and Republicans decried its use on such major legislation as a partisan power grab. Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, complained that using reconciliation would 'make it absolutely clear' that Obama and the Democrats in Congress 'intend to carry out all of their plans on a purely partisan basis.' On April 10th, Obama’s aides sent him a memo asking him to decide the issue. The White House could still fashion a bipartisan bill, but it was important to have the fifty-one-vote option as a backup plan, in case they weren’t able to win any Republican support and faced a filibuster. They recommended that he “insist on reconciliation instructions for health care.” Below this language, Obama was offered three options: 'Agree,' 'Disagree,' 'Let’s Discuss.' The President placed a check mark on the line next to 'Agree.'"

@nicmend: Favorite Obama quote from @RyanLizza's piece: "“I would opt for deficit reduction, but it doesn’t sound like we would get any credit for it”

Top op-eds

1) Gingrich's win shows the collapse of the GOP establishment, writes Timothy Carney: "Being the establishment candidate, as Mitt Romney learned Saturday, was far easier when the establishment really mattered. Newt Gingrich's popularity comes largely from his broadsides against the 'Washington elites' in his own party and the news media, but his success in South Carolina -- where the GOP establishment historically builds a firewall against insurgents -- demonstrates how thoroughly the elites and the establishment have frittered away the influence they once had...Party leaders -- center and right -- no longer can move the base. The best they can hope to do is hitch a ride on the base's passion. That's what Gingrich has done. He has kept his distance from the party establishment, and taken dead aim at the mainstream media, another institution that has lost credibility with the American public."

2) Gingrich lacks big ideas, writes Ross Douthat: "I have, for my sins, watched Gingrich make his pitch across what feels like seventeen thousand Republican primary debates, and I am at a loss to identify the 'big ideas' and 'big solutions' that he is supposedly campaigning on. Yes, he has an implausible supply-side tax plan, but you never hear him talk about it. He has technically signed on to some form of entitlement reform, but you never hear him talk about that, either. Instead, so far as I can tell, his 'idea-oriented' campaign consists almost entirely of promising to hold Lincoln-Douglas-style debates with President Obama, grandstanding about media bias and moderator stupidity, defending his history of ideological flexibility much more smoothly than Mitt Romney, and then occasionally throwing out a wonky-sounding notion (like, say, outsourcing E-Verify to American Express) that’s more glib than genuinely significant."

@michaelbd: What would Gingrich's issues be in the general election? It's not clear at all to me now.

Wonkbeg: What big, serious ideas has Gingrich actually been identified with?

3) There is reason for optimism on the economy, writes Paul Krugman: "How goes the state of the union? Well, the state of the economy remains terrible. Three years after President Obama’s inauguration and two and a half years since the official end of the recession, unemployment remains painfully high. But there are reasons to think that we’re finally on the (slow) road to better times. And we wouldn’t be on that road if Mr. Obama had given in to Republican demands that he slash spending, or the Federal Reserve had given in to Republican demands that it tighten money. Why am I letting a bit of optimism break through the clouds? Recent economic data have been a bit better, but we’ve already had several false dawns on that front. More important, there’s evidence that the two great problems at the root of our slump -- the housing bust and excessive private debt -- are finally easing."

4) Approving Keystone XL is smart economic policy, writes James Hamilton: "Here's my suggestion for how to become rich: buy low and sell high. It's a strategy that works for individuals, and can work for the entire nation as well. If you can figure out a way to find resources whose value in their current use is not very great-- in other words, if you buy low-- and redeploy them somewhere else where their value is much greater-- in other words, sell high-- then you will not only add to your personal wealth, you will be creating new wealth for society as a whole. The process of allocating resources to their most efficient use is the heart of what drives economic growth...For 150 years, Americans understood perfectly well that pipelines are the rational way to transport oil. We've reached a new and very troubling paralysis if we can't even agree on such an obvious fact at this point."

5) A better tax system would follow four principles, writes Gregory Mankiw: "It's that time again. Start filing all those W-2s, 1099s and scraps of paper you’ll need for your annual tax return. No doubt, this isn’t your favorite activity. At some point, you may ask yourself whether there’s a better way. There is. Economists who study public finance have long agreed with William E. Simon, the former Treasury secretary, who said that 'the nation should have a tax system that looks like someone designed it on purpose.'"

Art rock interlude: St. Vincent plays "Cruel" live on KCRW.

Got tips, additions, or comments? E-mail me.

Still to come: Obama's State of the Union will focus on the economy; the Obama administration moves forward on birth control; the fight over right to work may run into the Super Bowl; oil production surges; and a dog goes to sleep.

Economy

Low foreign wages are just one of the reasons Apple won't build iPhones in the United States, report Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher: "Not long ago, Apple boasted that its products were made in America. Today, few are. Almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold last year were manufactured overseas...Apple employs 43,000 people in the United States and 20,000 overseas, a small fraction of the over 400,000 American workers at General Motors in the 1950s, or the hundreds of thousands at General Electric in the 1980s. Many more people work for Apple’s contractors: an additional 700,000 people engineer, build and assemble iPads, iPhones and Apple’s other products. But almost none of them work in the United States. Instead, they work for foreign companies in Asia, Europe and elsewhere, at factories that almost all electronics designers rely upon to build their wares."

BEFORE YOU SCROLL DOWN: You may not know you're interested in an article about iPhones and the global supply chain. But you are. You really are. Read the whole thing.

Auto industry employment will jump in the coming years, report Joseph White, Jeff Bennett and Lauren Weber: "Big auto makers and their suppliers are spending billions to expand and retool U.S. factories, pushing heartland states to jockey to land new auto jobs. Executives say the industry's U-turn from bankruptcy filings and layoffs to hirings and capital spending is driven by rising demand and a new view of manufacturing in the U.S. as a way to guard against volatile currency markets and other risks. Auto-industry employment in the U.S. is predicted to jump to 756,800 in 2015 from 566,400 in 2010, with most of that increase in Michigan, according to the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. While that falls well short of the 1.1 million workers employed in the sector in 1999, it indicates the hemorrhaging has been stanched."

The Fed is trying to prepare the public for changes communications policies, reports Binyamin Appelbaum: "The Federal Reserve, which does not like to surprise financial markets, has worked unusually hard to prepare the public for the changes to its communications policies that it plans to introduce on Wednesday. While the changes could make it easier for the Fed to move ahead with another round of asset purchases later this year, by helping to explain why the economy needs additional stimulus, officials have indicated that any such plans remain on the back burner, and may stay there so long as the economy continues to recover...The centerpiece of the new policies is a plan to publish the predictions of senior Fed officials about the level at which they intend to set short-term interest rates over the next three years -- including when they expect to end their three-year-old commitment to keep rates near zero. The Fed also will describe the expectations of those officials for the management of the central bank’s vast investment portfolio."

Greek debt talks are deadlocked, report Costas Paris and Stelios Bouras: "Talks between Greece and its private-sector creditors over a debt write-down plan appeared to stall Saturday as the banks' top negotiator left Athens amid signs of fresh disagreements over how much Greece would pay its bondholders in the future. Officials close to the talks said they may not conclude before a meeting Monday of euro-zone finance ministers where a second bailout that will keep Greece from defaulting is supposed to be discussed. Without a deal on the write-down of the debt held in private hands, the loan can't be released...The two sides had appeared to be closing in on a deal that would give creditors new bonds paying a 3.5% coupon for shorter maturities and rising to a cap of 4.6% on longer-dated bonds. The average coupon would amount to around 4%. But people familiar with the matter said that the IMF and Germany were pushing for a lower rate, concerned that Greece's debt wouldn't return to sustainable levels if the average coupon on the new bonds was around 4%."

Webcomic interlude: xkcd on the sustainability of the word sustainable.

Health Care

The Obama administration is moving forward on its birth control rule , reports Louise Radnofsky: "The Obama administration on Friday moved ahead with plans to require most employer health insurance to cover birth control without copayments, but gave religious employers an extra year to make the change. The administration declined to loosen or scrap the requirement altogether, despite a chorus of complaints in recent months from religious groups. As part of the 2010 health overhaul, insurance plans for most Americans starting in August will have to cover all forms of contraception approved by the Food and Drug Administration without copayments or deductibles for policyholders. Last year, the administration made an exemption for a small number of religious employers, such as churches, if contraception violates their religious tenets. That exemption remained unchanged in the new version, but schools, hospitals and charities run by religious groups have said they are unlikely to qualify for an exemption."

More were added to food stamps under Bush than under Obama, reports Brooks Jackson: "Newt Gingrich claims that 'more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history.' He's wrong. More were added under Bush than under Obama, according to the most recent figures...Gingrich would have been correct to say the number now on food aid is historically high. The number stood at 46,224,722 persons as of October, the most recent month on record. And it's also true that the number has risen sharply since Obama took office. But Gingrich goes too far to say Obama has put more on the rolls than other presidents. We asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition service for month-by-month figures going back to January 2001. And they show that under President George W. Bush the number of recipients rose by nearly 14.7 million. Nothing before comes close to that."

@CitizenCohn: You know, the wonk in me is kinda excited to hear so much about food stamps in the campaign. It's a very successful program!

Liberals should care about cost control, writes Ezekiel Emanuel: "When it comes to health care, most liberals are committed above all to ensuring that every American has insurance. In their view, the greatest achievement of the health care reform act passed under President Obama is to finally erase the moral stain of the United States’ being the only major developed country without universal coverage. But we also hold the questionable distinction of having the world’s most expensive health care system -- what about cost control? For many liberals, that just sounds like a cover for heartless conservatives who care only about cutting benefits and not about helping people in need. But liberals are wrong to ignore costs. The more we spend on health care, the less we can spend on other things we value. If liberals care about middle-class salaries, public education and other state-funded services, then they need to care about controlling health care costs every bit as much as conservatives do."

Domestic Policy

The fight over right to work in Indiana may overlap with the Super Bowl, reports Monica Davey: "At times in recent days, the chants of protesters -- who say the legislation, known as a 'right to work' bill, will result in lower wages and weakened unions -- have echoed through the rotunda: 'Occupy the Super Bowl!' Some say they want to hold marches, slow down beer deliveries or hand out leaflets in the Super Bowl crowd, while others have hinted at more drastic measures...Through the debate, the Super Bowl has always loomed in the background. Democrats accused Republicans, who dominate both chambers of the legislature and control the governor’s office, of trying to rush the measure through in the first days of the session. That way, it would be long resolved by the time thousands of people, including the National Football League Players Association, which has issued a statement opposing the legislation, began arriving."

Washington needs more regional collaboration, writes Steven Pearlstein: "A lot has changed in the decades since George Johnson, then the president of the small, struggling George Mason University, first convened the 123 Club, in large part because of the efforts of the men gathered around Johnson’s dining room table. Because of the foundation they laid, Northern Virginia has become one of the richest and fastest-growing economies in the country. Northern Virginia is finally getting some of the money and attention it deserves from the state government down in Richmond. Tysons Corner, Reston and the Dulles Corridor were developed. Metro was built out into the suburbs. Dulles Airport was transformed from an isolated airport into a thriving domestic and international hub. And George Mason, where I now teach, has become the largest public university in the state and one of the up-and-coming state universities in the country."

Adorable animals being adorable interlude: A dog falls asleep.

Energy

Oil production in the U.S. is surging, reports Tom Fowler: "Federal forecasters are expected to confirm on Monday what the energy industry already knows: Oil production is surging in the U.S. The U.S. Energy Information Administration is likely to raise by a substantial amount its existing estimate that U.S. oil production will grow by 550,000 barrels per day by 2020, to just over six million barrels daily...This rising tide of oil and related liquids such as condensate that also are used as fuel could reduce U.S. dependence on oil imports and help ease the country's trade deficit. But it may have limited impact on U.S. gasoline prices, which increasingly are set by global supply-and-demand trends. The increased domestic production also isn't enough to help the U.S. achieve the elusive ideal of energy independence--the country is expected to consume more than 19 million barrels of oil and liquids a day by 2020."

Wonkbook is compiled and produced with help from Karl Singer and Michelle Williams.

 
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