In a political sense, the White House and Democrats should be pleased with the numbers coming out of Ohio. Recent polls have shown President Obama with a narrow lead in a state Mitt Romney almost certainly has to win; as of Wednesday, FiveThirtyEight’s model gives Obama a 70 percent chance of winning the state. The state’s unemployment rate has plunged almost three-and-a-half points since the middle of 2009. And after its GDP fell by 6.2 percent in 2009, growth has stabilized at 2.7 percent in 2010 and 1.1 percent last year (although both numbers trail the national GDP growth).
But on a policy level, as the Post’s Michael Fletcher reports this morning, Ohio residents aren’t satisfied:
[B]attered by long years of hard times, many voters in this state view the improvement as little more than a mirage: More than two out of three say the economy is worse or the same as it was a year ago, according to a recent poll.
Ohio is illustrative of the downside of a recovery that many people say they do not feel. There are some new jobs but, as the economy shifts, they do not always match workers’ experiences. Here, as in other manufacturing states, those changes may mean a permanent deflation of incomes and expectations.
And in light of the last decade, they are right not to be satisfied:
Two decades ago, manufacturing accounted for more than one in five Ohio jobs. Since then, the share of factory jobs in the state has shrunk by almost half. Meanwhile, per-capita incomes have not increased since 2007, when adjusted for inflation, and wages have slipped further below the national average. Overall, more than 100,000 jobs have vanished in the state in the past decade.
“Ohio did not bounce out of the 2000 recession” before the next one hit, said Mark E. Schweitzer, director of research for the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
The presidential candidates, the Post writes, are offering dueling explanations for the recovery, and that’s a debate we must have. After all, most economists would agree more with the president’s argument that government action to save the auto industry, and disagree with Romney’s claims that Republicans’ small-government approach fueled its comback. But at the same time, such a debate has to emphasize that while the financial crash happened in 2008, for many Americans the whole decade has been an economic dissappointment.
The national statistics for the past decade are damning: the worst average job creation and economic growth in any decade since the 1930s; a stagnation followed by a decline in median household income for the vast majority of Americans; poverty up by three percent (and nearly five percent for children); and so on. And now, unemployment rates above seven or eight percent, once considered a crisis, are met with shrugs as Congress adjourns yet again.
What gains there have been, both in past few years and in the past decade, have mostly gone to the top one percent. Republicans ran economic policy for much of the decade, and deserve the bulk of the criticism, but Democrats haven’t pushed them hard enough to act. If the president and those who would style themselves policy leaders in Washington want to really lead, the first priority should be a long-term plan for a better economy for the rest of America.
* New swing-state polls slightly less favorable to Obama: The latest round of New York Times/CBS/Quinnipiac polls is out today, and the topline is less favorable then the last round, though still encouraging for the president. Obama has a four-point lead in Virginia (49%-45%) and a six-point lead in Wisconsin (51-45), while Romney has a five-point lead in Colorado 50-45). The Times credits white working class males as providing key support for Romney
The Colorado number is disappointing for Obama, and the Wisconsin number should also cause a little concern (especially with Republicans running ads in Wisconsin, suggesting they think it’s in play). Nevertheless, as with last week’s numbers, there appears to be little room for either candidate to shift the numbers: only between four and six percent of voters in each state are undecided, and only eight to nine percent say they might change their vote.
* Romney favorability stalls: A new Washington Post/ABC poll finds that Romney’s favorability ratings have stalled in the low 40s since he clinched the Republican nomination — this month at a 40% favorable/49% unfavorable split — while Obama’s remain positive: 53% favorable, 43% unfavorable. Worse for Romney, the deficit is even greater among independent voters: 50% have an unfavorable opinion of him, while only 37% have a positive view, while the president has a 53% favorable, 40% unfavorable gap.
Convention bounces aside, if Romney’s camp continues to focus on attacking the president rather than strengthening Romney’s own image, it’s difficult to see how these numbers will change.
* McCaskill to face Akin in Missouri: In last night’s Missouri Senate primary, Republican voters picked Rep. Todd Akin over businessman John Brunner and former State Treasurer Sarah Steelman. That sigh of relief you hear is from McCaskill’s campaign and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee: As National Journal reports, Akin, as the most conservative of what was already a conservative primary field, was “the opponent [McCaskill] wanted.”
* Ryan veep talk splits GOP: Politico has a solid story detailing the debate among Republicans over whether Romney should pick Paul Ryan as his vice president. Some in the party argue Ryan would give Romney a more assertive case for his candidacy; others say Ryan gives Obama too much to use against Romney. I’m not sure Ryan is a net positive for Romney in the short-term. But there are reasons Dems should hope he isn’t the pick: it could shift the long-term debate over the country’s fiscal future shifts to the right.
* Romney’s bad economic advisers: Last week, Romney economic advisers Kevin Hassett, Glenn Hubbard, Greg Mankiw and John Taylor put out a white paper to support the campaign’s specious claim that Romney’s plans would create “millions of jobs.”
Brad DeLong does the heavy lifting for the rest of us and utterly eviscerates their paper over on his blog. Not surprisingly, DeLong finds multiple wrong statements and plain falsehoods. A must-read.
* Obama administration continues disappointing on civil liberties: Federal prosecutors, reports Reuters, have “appealed a U.S. judge’s order barring enforcement of part of a law that permits indefinite military detention for those deemed to have ‘substantially supported’ al Qaeda, the Taliban or ‘associated forces.’” A New York judge had ruled the law was too broad, could be used to detain Americans indefinitely without trial and failed to “pass constitutional muster.”
This is another depressing way in which the Obama White House has all too often continued the Bush administration’s disregard for civil liberties; equally sadly, few progressives will likely criticize the president for this appeal.
* Get ready for more demagoguing of sequester: On Tuesday, writes the Hill, the president ”signed a law requiring the White House budget office to reveal exactly how automatic budget cuts looming in January 2013 will be carried out.” The bill, passed near-unanimously by both houses, gives the Office of Management and Budget 30 days to report back. Mark that day on your calendars for increased demagoguery (especially from Republicans).
* And Texas executes man with IQ of 61: Last night, the state of Texas put to death put to death Marvin Wilson, 54, whose IQ had been measured at 61, well below the minimum competency standard of 70. Texas prosecutors argued that Wilson, convicted of a 1992 murder, was competent according to other non-IQ assessments.
But Richard Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center notes that Wilson’s case is just the latest incident of Texas straining the bounds of science to execute mentally deficient criminals. Wilson’s execution was the seventh in Texas this year, and only one of the seven executed was white.