Political Animal


September 24, 2012 11:10 AM Fairies A-Fading

By Ed Kilgore

Paul Krugman observes that one of Mitt Romney’s main rationales for becoming president—that his reassuring plutocratic presence will inspire the kind of “confidence” among investors and “job-creators” that will in and of itself boost the economy—is getting a little ragged:

As it happens, Mr. Romney offered a testable proposition in his Boca remarks: “If it looks like I’m going to win, the markets will be happy. If it looks like the president’s going to win, the markets should not be terribly happy.” How’s that going? Not very well. Over the past month conventional wisdom has shifted from the view that the election could easily go either way to the view that Mr. Romney is very likely to lose; yet markets are up, not down, with major stock indexes hitting their highest levels since the economic downturn began.

This is perhaps a bigger problem for Romney than is generally realized. Obviously, anything down the home stretch that makes economic prospects look worse is at least marginally bad news for the incumbent, and anything encouraging even a scintilla of optimism is good news. But beyond that, Romney more than any recent GOP nominee can credibly claim to be an authentic representative of the people who more or less run the United States and global economies. To the extent that undecided voters believe their own and their country’s prosperity depends on decisions by this class of people, they may lean towards giving them exactly what they want, even if it makes them a bit ill. Even people who hate “The Man” recognize that The Man is still “The Man,” right?

Again, perhaps I emphasize this phenomenon because I am from a region of the country where voters have for many decades consciously endorsed public policy positions against their own long-term interests so long as it might lead to immediate jobs. In some lovely but poor parts of my home state of Georgia, local folks would happily level the side of a scenic mountain if they could trade it for a cut-and-sew apparel plant paying minimum wage.

But in order to offer this sort of implicit devil’s bargain, politicians have to be able to show they can deliver. And that could be a serious intangible problem for Romney, aside from the abstract impact of better economic indicators on perceptions of the incumbent. If voters don’t have confidence that Mitt is the candidate who can instill confidence among economic movers and shakers, the whole confidence game breaks down, and the “confidence fairy” could fade to a mere fantasy.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • James M on September 24, 2012 11:29 AM:

    Mitt Romney's argument might have held more weight if the distributive trends of the last 10 years had been different. Every study that I am aware of suggests that there a massive and ongoing upward shift of income and wealth has occurred in the last 10 years.

    Even looking at as simple a concept as diminishing returns, given the fact that the upward shift up till now has not resorted in improved general economic well-being, how could you persuasively argue for more?

  • c u n d gulag on September 24, 2012 11:31 AM:

    The elections still 6 weeks off, but HOT DAMN!, I'm starting to think that this might be a blow-out election.

    Mitt is a terrible national candidate, and so is Paul Ryan.
    Mitt's been on every side of every issue, and all Ryan has exposure to, is his own insular world view where his genius has been claimed and proclaimed in the echo chamber the right has.

    Like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Romney and Ryan are fine it the world they know - robbery blowing sh*t up in the American West.
    But like Butch and Sundance in Bolivia - it's what they don't about the new world they're in, that's killin' 'em!

    Some people don't like being robbed, and having their sh*t blown up.

    The amazing thing is, that never occured to either of the R&R boys.

  • James M on September 24, 2012 11:37 AM:

    c u n d gulag....keep your voice down! LOL.

    I agree with you. In fact, I have felt from a couple of weeks ago that this looks like a potential landslide. The clincher was a discussion at a bar with my far right friend 'D'. He has an immediate retort to anything I say. However, when I said, "You don't like Mitt Romney, do you?", there was a noticeable pause.

    If you are a Lie to Me fan it was a major tell!

  • boatboy_srq on September 24, 2012 11:45 AM:

    [P]erhaps I emphasize this phenomenon because I am from a region of the country where voters have for many decades consciously endorsed public policy positions against their own long-term interests so long as it might lead to immediate jobs.

    Do you mean the same voters who proceed to send people to public office who make it easier for employers to send jobs somewhere else immediately after that? I'm not talking about "enacting non-business-friendly policies" - just about removing constraints on business fleeing for cheaper - er, friendlier - locales.

    I can remember NAFTA, and all the post-NAFTA movements, when companies bolted from cheap labor to cheaper labor to "where the BLEEP did they go?" almost as fast as the manufacturing plants were built. Work went South, scurried around the South for a few years, then off to Mexico and thence to Asia with barely a blink in between stops. And somehow this was all Washington's fault. (And yes, I know the NAFTA situation was brutal, and the terms of the treaty far too vague and generous to business; but if corporations want the privileges of citizenship then they need to stop acting like serial refugees.)

    Southern volk like getting jobs. It's keeping employers in the South without resorting to bribery - er, corporate tax breaks, preferential real estate acquisitions, and exemptions from labor statutes - that seems to be the problem.

  • Leopold Von Ranke on September 24, 2012 12:04 PM:

    What no one on the right seems to comprehend is a couple of basically conservative principles. (1) "Markets" will do well as long as profits of publicly traded companies are strong. (2) "Job Creators" will not create jobs as long as demand for product is low. Which leads to a proposition: Job Creators, however omnipotent, do not create jobs. Demand creates jobs.

  • Anonymous on September 24, 2012 12:11 PM:

    Ed, would you care to tell us why the economy is so much worse in the South than in the North or better yet why are the blue coasts generally doing better than the red South, Midwest and Southwest?

  • Rod Hoffman on September 24, 2012 12:29 PM:

    I live in Massachusetts.

    Despite the '47th in job growth' meme, I didn't hold Romney responsible for that because I think a governor has little effect on the general economy.

    However, he did campaign on the fact that, because of his close ties to business leaders across the country, he could convince businesses to re-locate to the Bay State. Nada.

    It's not that he is a plutocrat; it's that he's an ineffective plutocrat.

  • Ron Byers on September 24, 2012 12:32 PM:

    Leopold Von Ranke, you win the thread.

    Romney and the Republicans are not articulating a conservative agenda. Romney and Ryan are articulating an elitist or plutocrat agenda and calling it conservative. Joe Scarborough, of all people, let the cat out of the bag on Meet the Press yesterday. You don't even have to be a Democrat, liberal or progressive, to oppose Romney. Principled small government conservatives should stand against him as well.

  • liam foote on September 24, 2012 12:54 PM:

    InTrade results from over the weekend:

    Obama 72.1 Romney 27.4

    OH 73.5 27.2 +46.3 Obama
    FL 58.8 40.0 +18.8 Obama
    VA 65.0 33.0 +32.0 Obama
    CO 63.0 35.0 +28.0 Obama
    NV 72.5 27.1 +45.4 Obama
    NH 68.5 31.4 +37.1 Obama
    IA 68.4 31.3 +37.1 Obama
    NC 37.5 63.0 +25.5 Romney

    For those who don't follow predictive markets, if you think Romney can win Colorado, for example, you can buy a shares at $3.50 and, as all markets close at $10 you can realize a profit of $6.50 on each share purchased.

  • T2 on September 24, 2012 12:55 PM:

    the GOP has bet the house (and perhaps the House) on torpedoing the economy and blaming it on Obama. A very large portion of the country realize that the GOP trying to keep the economy bad for political reasons and the GOP is the one responsible for the economy being bad in the first place.
    At this point, six weeks out, I see the majority coming to the conclusion that staying with the incumbent will be better than changing to an unknown future with a guy who appears to be a robot.

  • bigtuna on September 24, 2012 12:59 PM:

    1. Anon - umm - could it be better infrastructure, schools, health and health care, educated workforce, belief in facts, etc?

    2. Echoed in these comments is the fact that when you listen to the whole video [gag, gag] and the message of "if I am elected the markest will rejoice" -there is an incredible hubris / ego here. Look, anyone wanting to be president has an ego the size of Montana, but, as I have couched this before, Willard's upbringing and faith have put a triple scoop on the hubris front. The NYTimes article about what Romney says in private shows that the true Romney is a "I am smart, and rich and know God. You are a 47% er. STFU" guy.

  • TCinLA on September 24, 2012 1:26 PM:

    I am from a region of the country where voters have for many decades consciously endorsed public policy positions against their own long-term interests

    I believe this goes back a few years longer than "many decades." Try, "it goes back to the founding of the South." Who was it who fought an died so Ol' Massa could keep keep his slaves and thereby keep pulling the economic rug out from under the damn ignorant fools running across the field in Pickett's Charge????

  • Diane Rodriguez on September 24, 2012 2:10 PM:

    Lord Small Ball's magical thinking that his oval office presence will make church bells accompany the angels singing an alleluia chorus is more than a delusional character flaw.

    Demographics is changing the ideal picture of "President". A decade ago, someone who looks like Romney would have captured a large group of voters' visual ideal of a President. It was a conscious decision for some, but I believe it was largely unconscious for many others.

    The money bubble has provided a severely restricted view of the world to a man who exhibits the level of self awareness demonstrated by a garden slug.

  • BJ smith on September 24, 2012 2:55 PM:

    It may be that this guy was really the worse of the lot instead of the best.Diane, you are on to something here.

  • Bob on September 24, 2012 3:16 PM:


    I come from an area of Upstate NY that was once part of the State's Manufacturing base. As someone who came of age in the 70s and 80s I remember well the companies shifting production overseas and in many cases simply to low wage southern states.

    With all due respect to those who still live in my hometown, long a Republican stronghold, and to your native Georgia - WTF? Markets may or may not see a President Romney as a plus. Krugman does a great job of debunking that based on investment and market performance over the last several years. But what "common man/woman" could possibly think that a President Romney would be good for them? He's not "like" those executives who shuttered plants to save a dime, in many cases he IS that guy.

  • trog69 on September 24, 2012 4:45 PM:

    Great Sabbath video. I was a bit less fortunate in that when I saw Black Sabbath, it was during Ozzy's Muu-muu-wearing years, and they seemed to have more fun laughing at their own screw-ups on stage than the audience participation.

    It was in Germany, however, so that made up for some things. We were in the midst of a bumper-"crop" of hashish at the time, which was nice.