And so it begins: Less partisan budget talks in Washington?

 (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Lawmakers launched an effort to resolve budget differences in a less confrontational fashion on Thursday as Washington picked up the pieces from a political crisis that has slowed the economy and undermined the country’s international standing.

As hundreds of thousands of federal employees returned to work, Republican and Democratic negotiators held their first meeting to tackle tax and spending issues that have led to repeated rounds of brinkmanship over the past three years.

But one day after Congress ended a 16-day government shutdown and stepped back from the edge of an unprecedented debt default, many feared that they have only set the stage for another standoff in the months to come.

“I just hope we don’t have to go through this again in two months,” said Sandria Coombs, a contractor at the Environmental Protection Agency who was furloughed.

The last minute budget deal, signed into law by President Barack Obama just after midnight, restores government funding through January 15 and extends its borrowing authority through February 7, though the Treasury Department might be able to stave off a default for several weeks past that point.

Speaking at the White House, Obama urged lawmakers to turn to more productive work. He suggested an ambitious agenda including an overhaul the country’s immigration program by the end of the year and resolution of long-term budget issues. He also called for final work on a farm bill that had been sidelined by the fiscal confrontation.

“Let’s work together to make government work better instead of treating it like an enemy,” he said.

On Capitol Hill, budget negotiators pledged to bridge the vast gulf between Republican and Democratic fiscal priorities. The panel is supposed to reach agreement by December 13, but there are no guarantees it will succeed where similar efforts have failed.

The standoff ended with a clear defeat for Republicans, who had sought to tie government funding to measures that would undercut Obama’s signature Affordable Care Act.

That effort failed, and the standoff diverted public attention away from the administration’s sloppy rollout of the health law’s online insurance exchanges.

The fight split business-friendly Republicans from grassroots Tea Party conservatives and left the party on the wrong side of public opinion. Though Obama’s approval rating fell during the crisis, polls showed that most voters blamed Republicans for the standoff.

A Pew Research Center poll found that 49 percent of Americans now have a negative view of the Tea Party, a new low. But Tea Party groups remained unbowed: several on Thursday endorsed a conservative primary challenger to Mississippi Republican Senator Thad Cochran, who is up for reelection next year.

Republican Representative Tom Cole from Oklahoma, who sits on the budget panel, said it is time to move on. “We’ve had the fight,” he said on MSNBC. “Now it’s time to get down and identify the things we can agree on.”

U.S. stocks gained on Thursday with the S&P 500 index hitting a record intraday high. The index fell as much as 4 percent during the standoff but recovered as a deal emerged.

WORKERS RETURN

Hundreds of thousands of federal workers who had been idled by the standoff returned to work. Vice President Joe Biden brought muffins to returning workers at the Environmental Protection Agency, while Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack greeted workers returning to the agency’s headquarters on the National Mall.

Though federal workers will get back pay, the standoff is likely to slow economic growth in the fourth quarter from 2.5 percent to 2.3 percent with a high risk that it could slow even further, according a Reuters survey of 70 economists.

“The insanity in Washington is affecting consumer and business confidence. That’s the huge restraint to growth,” said Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors in Holland, Pennsylvania.

The standoff has elevated borrowing costs, caused private-sector furloughs and delayed mortgage applications and construction permits. Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, estimates that it will cost the economy $20 billion.

The last debt-ceiling fight in 2011 depressed consumer confidence for months and raised the United States’ borrowing costs by $19 billion over 10 years.

The United States’ once-perfect credit rating has been dented by the repeated confrontations. Standard and Poor’s downgraded U.S. debt following the 2011 crisis, while Fitch warned on Tuesday that it may cut its assessment as well.

The third major rating agency, Moody’s, said on Thursday it would maintain its AAA rating.

One possible upside: the turbulence could prompt the Federal Reserve to keep its massive monetary stimulus in place through next year. One Fed official said the deadlock has undermined the central bank’s ability to fight high unemployment.

“Kicking the can down the road for a few months will not solve the pathology of fiscal misfeasance that undermines our economy and threatens our future,” Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher told the Economic Club of New York.

Economists say the spending cuts and tax hikes approved by Congress over the past several years have elevated the unemployment rate even as they have helped the country narrow budget deficits.

The deal approved Wednesday is likely to cause more short-term pain by keeping the across-the-board “sequester” cuts in place. Officials at the Pentagon and other federal agencies that have been able to minimize the impact of the cuts so far say they will slice deeper in the months to come.

___

Copyright  © 2013 Capitol Hill Blue

Copyright  © 2013 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Obama claiming credit for eonomic ‘turnaround’

President Barack Obama (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)
President Barack Obama (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

President Barack Obama is seeking credit for an economic turnaround, using the fifth anniversary of the collapse of the Lehman Brothers investment bank to highlight signs of recovery and to warn against potentially market-rattling fights over the federal budget and the nation’s debt ceiling.

Obama was scheduled to address the state of the economy Monday in a Rose Garden speech, accompanied by a selection of Americans who the White House says have benefited from the administration’s policies. The event marks the start of a week-long focus on the economy after a month of preoccupation with the crisis in Syria.

For Obama, the anniversary of Lehman’s bankruptcy in 2008, which marked the beginning of the global financial crisis and played havoc with an economy already in recession, is an opportunity to confront public skepticism about his stewardship of the economy and to put down his marker for budget clashes with Congress in the weeks ahead.

The White House’s National Economic Council on Sunday issued a report detailing economic policies that it says have helped shore up the financial system and put the economy on a path toward growth. Those steps range from the unpopular Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, that shored up the financial industry and bailed out auto giants General Motors and Chrysler, to an $800 billion stimulus bill to sweeping new bank regulations.

Gene Sperling, a top Obama adviser and director of the National Economic Council, said Obama’s policies “have performed better than virtually anyone at the time predicted.”

“We came in, stabilized the situation,” Obama told ABC’s “This Week” in an interview broadcast Sunday. He cited 42 months in a row of growth, 7½ million jobs created and a revitalized auto industry.

“The banking system works. It is giving loans to companies who can get credit. And so we have seen, I think undoubtedly, progress across the board,” he said.

But the public is not convinced that the economy is on the mend. Only one-third say the economic system is more secure now than in 2008, and 52 percent say they disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy, according to a Pew Research Center poll. There is still plenty of pain to justify their pessimism.

Despite job growth, the unemployment rate remains high at 7.3 percent. Though the rate has fallen, one of the reasons is because some people have dropped out of the labor force and no longer are counted as job seekers. The share of unemployed workers who have been unemployed for more than six months is more than double what it was in 2007 before the recession began. And the income gap between the very rich and the rest of the population is the biggest since 1928.

What’s more, some banks that received government aid because they were deemed “too big to fail” are now bigger than they were in 2008, although they are smaller as a share of the economy than the largest banks in other big economies. Three years after Obama signed a sweeping overhaul of lending and high-finance rules, execution of the law is behind schedule.

Eager to counter public sentiment, Obama intends to draw attention to signs of progress with daily events, including a speech Wednesday to the Business Roundtable, an association of CEOs from the top U.S. companies, and a trip Friday to Kansas City to visit a Ford plant, where he will promote the strength of the auto industry.

Obama wants to reverse automatic spending cuts that kicked in in March, but at the same time has said he would not negotiate with Republicans over the nation’s debt ceiling. He said using the threat of default to make policy demands on the president “changes the constitutional structure of this government entirely.”

Obama’s remarks hinted at a potential constitutional confrontation with Republicans. Section 4 of the 14th Amendment says that “the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”

Some conservative Republicans say they will only extend current spending levels or increase the debt ceiling if Obama delays putting in place his health care law, a condition Obama has flatly rejected. Others say the scheduled spending cuts should stay in place to reduce the deficit.

“We need to start by keeping the cuts we’ve already agreed to,” Sen. Mitch McConnell said in a statement Sunday. “It’s time to get serious about the challenges we face and reposition America for growth and prosperity in the 21st century.”

___

Follow Jim Kuhnhenn on Twitter: http://twitter.com/jkuhnhenn
___

Copyright  © 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Copyright  © 2013 Capitol Hill Blue

Enhanced by Zemanta

House Republicans claim necessity to veer to the right

Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., center, and Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., right, chairman of the House Education Committee, walk to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote to delay the individual and employer mandates of President Barack Obama's signature health care law, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, July 17, 2013. It's the 38th time the GOP majority has tried to eliminate, defund or scale back the program since Republicans took control of the House in January 2011.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., center, and Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., right, chairman of the House Education Committee, (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Ask a typical Republican in the House of Representatives what it takes to keep his or her job and they will say something like “go to the right, stay to the right and do what’s right.”

Most Republicans believe the electorate is turning more and more conservative and feel they can stay in office if they go along on right-wing issues that were once considered too extreme for political survival.

They point to primary losses against more conservative challengers who vow to never, ever work with Democrats or to compromise even an inch.

Ironically, House Democrats feel some of the same pressure from the left but also claim their votes are more comfortable with compromise that is often necessary to make government function.

Republicans, on the other hand, feel their voters demand hard-core, no-compromise approaches to issues that, while popular in some populist circles, often threaten to bring government to a halt.

The House’s recent struggles to handle once-routine tasks — such as passing a bipartisan farm bill and raising the federal debt limit — partly stem from the millions of Republican primary voters who elect representatives with stern warnings not to compromise with Democrats. It’s also a reason that efforts to rewrite the nation’s immigration laws face problems in the House, where Republicans quickly dismissed the Senate’s bipartisan approach.

In interviews, House Republicans often cite worries about a possible challenge from the right in their next primary. Many of them represent districts so strongly Republican that it’s all but impossible for the party’s nominee to lose a general election to a Democrat. Also, these lawmakers say, it’s highly unlikely that a moderate Republican can wrest the party’s nomination from a conservative incumbent.

“There aren’t a whole lot of moderate Republicans who participate in the primary in a conservative district,” said Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Texas.

That leaves many House Republicans with only one prerequisite to assure their re-election: Never give a hard-charging conservative enough room on the right to mount a viable challenge in the primary.

In practice, the task doesn’t seem so hard. Only six House Republicans lost their re-election primaries last year. Half of them fell to fellow incumbents in redrawn districts that forced two colleagues to oppose each other. The other three lost to challengers with strong tea party support.

Rep. Jean Schmidt’s loss was instructive. A conservative by almost any measure, the three-term Ohioan was attacked nonetheless for voting to raise the federal debt ceiling and for giving President Barack Obama a peck on the cheek as he entered the House for his 2012 State of the Union address.

Memories of what happened to Schmidt — and to veteran Republican senators such as Bob Bennett and Richard Lugar, who also lost primaries to tea party-backed challengers — come up repeatedly in political discussions, House insiders say. GOP lawmakers regularly take the temperature of their districts’ conservative activists, who are crucial in primary elections, which often draw modest turnouts.

“House members are better at reading their districts than anyone else,” said Republican lobbyist and pollster Mike McKenna.

McKenna said it’s not unusual to discuss immigration reform with House Republicans who say, “I’m getting emails from people who vote in primaries. They say ‘I don’t care what the Farm Bureau says, I hate this stuff.'”

Rep. John Fleming, R-La., tracks such emails and phone calls. He said his office recently received 80 calls about immigration, “and all of them were against the Senate bill.”

The Senate bill would create a pathway to citizenship — or what many conservatives call “amnesty” — for millions of immigrants living here illegally. Fleming, asked whether he ever worries about going too far right for GOP primary voters in his district, said: “What’s the chance of a moderate Republican coming in and saying, ‘Oh, I’m for amnesty’?”

Marchant, the Texas congressman, said he’s a lifelong conservative who has watched GOP primary voters in his west-Dallas district lean increasingly to the right. Tea partyers who once cast their votes for Libertarian Party candidates, he said, now are full-fledged Republicans.

“The mainstream Republicans, as a result, have become more conservative,” Marchant said. Tea party activists, he said, “found that they could go into the Republican primary and make a real difference.”

GOP Rep. Howard Coble, elected to 15 terms from central North Carolina, dates the change in primary voters’ behavior to the mid-1990s. Conservative groups, he said, “were challenging Bob Dole for not being pure enough.”

“That has opened the gates to primary races” against Republican incumbents, Coble said.

Voter surveys support the view that Republican voters are becoming more conservative.

On average, from 1976 through 1990, 47 percent of people who voted Republican in House races considered themselves conservative, according to exit polls. A slightly smaller share called themselves political moderates.

During Bill Clinton’s presidency — which included bruising fights over health care, gun control, taxes and his impeachment — Republicans’ conservatism began rising. From 1992 through 2006, GOP voters were 52 percent conservative on average and 41 percent moderate.

And in the most recent House elections, 2008 through 2012, more than 6 in 10 voters who backed a GOP candidate described themselves as conservative. About a third called themselves moderate.

Meanwhile, those who vote for House Democrats have become more liberal. But self-described liberals still comprise less than half of that group. In the pre-Clinton years, 25 percent considered themselves liberal; 33 percent on average did so from 1992 to 2006; and it stands at 40 percent across the last three elections.

Michael Dimock, who tracks such trends for the Pew Research Center, said that several years ago there was a notable difference between social conservatives and business conservatives in the Republican Party. Today, he said, Republican voters are more unified — and solidly conservative.

“The socially conservative right has adopted that anti-government, small-government principle, and it’s largely consolidated,” Dimock said.

Rep. David Price has watched the two congressional parties grow farther apart for decades, first as a Duke University political science professor, and for 25 years as a Democratic House member from North Carolina.

At a recent Yale University conference on Congress, Price said: “Reaching agreement was extraordinarily difficult in the 1990s. It seems almost impossible now.”

___

Jennifer Agiesta and Charles Babington of the Associated Press contributed to this report.
___

Copyright  © 2013 Capitol Hill Blue

Enhanced by Zemanta

Is it time to dump the Internet and move on?

The Internet: Too much of a threat to continue?
The Internet: Too much of a threat to continue?

Robert Samuelson, economic columnist for The Washington Post, says it’s time to admit the Internet was a colossal mistake, shut the damn thing down, and move on.

He might be right.

Writes Samuelson:

If I could, I would repeal the Internet. It is the technological marvel of the age, but it is not — as most people imagine — a symbol of progress. Just the opposite. We would be better off without it. I grant its astonishing capabilities: the instant access to vast amounts of information, the pleasures of YouTube and iTunes, the convenience of GPS and much more. But the Internet’s benefits are relatively modest compared with previous transformative technologies, and it brings with it a terrifying danger: cyberwar. Amid the controversy over leaks from the National Security Agency, this looms as an even bigger downside.

Samuelson argues that the threat of interruption of society is so great that life without the Internet is not only possible but preferable for America’s future.

He continues:

In a report, the Defense Science Board, an advisory group to the Pentagon, acknowledged “staggering losses” of information involving weapons design and combat methods to hackers (not identified, but probably Chinese). In the future, hackers might disarm military units. “U.S. guns, missiles and bombs may not fire, or may be directed against our own troops,” the report said. It also painted a specter of social chaos from a full-scale cyberassault. There would be “no electricity, money, communications, TV, radio or fuel (electrically pumped). In a short time, food and medicine distribution systems would be ineffective.”

Are such threats real or imagined?  The news daily is filled with the threat of hackers.  Americans have lost millions through email scams.  Financial institutions have been hacked.  Our government spends billions defending itself from cyber attacks.

Recently, a malicious script that was supposed to add a needed technological repair to ADSL modems that supply high-speed Internet to the Blue Ridge Mountain community where I live instead disabled hundreds of them and left residents in a Southwestern Virginia county without Internet, email or IP television.

The most common complaint from those who could not use their data services was not a lack of email or even the inability to watch their favorite soap operas or other television shows.

Nope.  Most complaints centered on an inability to get on Facebook and social network.

Texting on smartphones has become an pervasive — and some might say invasive — part of society.  It’s also a threat and too many fatal auto accidents are attributed to distractions from texting and talking on wireless phones while driving.

Samuelson goes on to identify specific cyber terror attacks that hit oil companies and other parts of infrastructure.

He concludes:

All this qualifies our view of the Internet. Granted, it’s relentless. New uses spread rapidly. Already, 56 percent of U.S. adults own smartphones and 34 percent have tablets, says the Pew Internet & American Life Project. But the Internet’s social impact is shallow. Imagine life without it. Would the loss of e-mail, Facebook or Wikipedia inflict fundamental change? Now imagine life without some earlier breakthroughs: electricity, cars, antibiotics. Life would be radically different. The Internet’s virtues are overstated, its vices understated. It’s a mixed blessing — and the mix may be moving against us.

Life without the Internet.  Not that many years ago it wasn’t even part of our lives.  Now it is dominant, both in lifestyle and structure.

But is it necessary and worth the risk?

Good questions.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Blacks voter turnout now higher than whites in America

Lauren Howie, 27, poses outside the School of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.  (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)
Lauren Howie, 27, poses outside the School of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

America’s blacks voted at a higher rate than other minority groups in 2012 and by most measures surpassed the white turnout for the first time, reflecting a deeply polarized presidential election in which blacks strongly supported Barack Obama while many whites stayed home.

Had people voted last November at the same rates they did in 2004, when black turnout was below its current historic levels, Republican Mitt Romney would have won narrowly, according to an analysis conducted for The Associated Press.

Census data and exit polling show that whites and blacks will remain the two largest racial groups of eligible voters for the next decade. Last year’s heavy black turnout came despite concerns about the effect of new voter-identification laws on minority voting, outweighed by the desire to re-elect the first black president.

William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, analyzed the 2012 elections for the AP using census data on eligible voters and turnout, along with November’s exit polling. He estimated total votes for Obama and Romney under a scenario where 2012 turnout rates for all racial groups matched those in 2004. Overall, 2012 voter turnout was roughly 58 percent, down from 62 percent in 2008 and 60 percent in 2004.

The analysis also used population projections to estimate the shares of eligible voters by race group through 2030. The numbers are supplemented with material from the Pew Research Center and George Mason University associate professor Michael McDonald, a leader in the field of voter turnout who separately reviewed aggregate turnout levels across states, as well as AP interviews with the Census Bureau and other experts. The bureau is scheduled to release data on voter turnout in May.

Overall, the findings represent a tipping point for blacks, who for much of America’s history were disenfranchised and then effectively barred from voting until passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

But the numbers also offer a cautionary note to both Democrats and Republicans after Obama won in November with a historically low percentage of white supporters. While Latinos are now the biggest driver of U.S. population growth, they still trail whites and blacks in turnout and electoral share, because many of the Hispanics in the country are children or noncitizens.

In recent weeks, Republican leaders have urged a “year-round effort” to engage black and other minority voters, describing a grim future if their party does not expand its core support beyond white males.

The 2012 data suggest Romney was a particularly weak GOP candidate, unable to motivate white voters let alone attract significant black or Latino support. Obama’s personal appeal and the slowly improving economy helped overcome doubts and spur record levels of minority voters in a way that may not be easily replicated for Democrats soon.

Romney would have erased Obama’s nearly 5 million-vote victory margin and narrowly won the popular vote if voters had turned out as they did in 2004, according to Frey’s analysis. Then, white turnout was slightly higher and black voting lower.

More significantly, the battleground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida and Colorado would have tipped in favor of Romney, handing him the presidency if the outcome of other states remained the same.

“The 2012 turnout is a milestone for blacks and a huge potential turning point,” said Andra Gillespie, a political science professor at Emory University who has written extensively on black politicians. “What it suggests is that there is an ‘Obama effect’ where people were motivated to support Barack Obama. But it also means that black turnout may not always be higher, if future races aren’t as salient.”

Whit Ayres, a GOP consultant who is advising GOP Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a possible 2016 presidential contender, says the last election reaffirmed that the Republican Party needs “a new message, a new messenger and a new tone.” Change within the party need not be “lock, stock and barrel,” Ayres said, but policy shifts such as GOP support for broad immigration legislation will be important to woo minority voters over the longer term.

“It remains to be seen how successful Democrats are if you don’t have Barack Obama at the top of the ticket,” he said.

___

In Ohio, a battleground state where the share of eligible black voters is more than triple that of other minorities, 27-year-old Lauren Howie of Cleveland didn’t start out thrilled with Obama in 2012. She felt he didn’t deliver on promises to help students reduce college debt, promote women’s rights and address climate change, she said. But she became determined to support Obama as she compared him with Romney.

“I got the feeling Mitt Romney couldn’t care less about me and my fellow African-Americans,” said Howie, an administrative assistant at Case Western Reserve University‘s medical school who is paying off college debt.

Howie said she saw some Romney comments as insensitive to the needs of the poor. “A white Mormon swimming in money with offshore accounts buying up companies and laying off their employees just doesn’t quite fit my idea of a president,” she said. “Bottom line, Romney was not someone I was willing to trust with my future.”

The numbers show how population growth will translate into changes in who votes over the coming decade:

—The gap between non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic black turnout in 2008 was the smallest on record, with voter turnout at 66.1 percent and 65.2 percent, respectively; turnout for Latinos and non-Hispanic Asians trailed at 50 percent and 47 percent. Rough calculations suggest that in 2012, 2 million to 5 million fewer whites voted compared with 2008, even though the pool of eligible white voters had increased.

—Unlike other minority groups, the rise in voting for the slow-growing black population is due to higher turnout. While blacks make up 12 percent of the share of eligible voters, they represented 13 percent of total 2012 votes cast, according to exit polling. That was a repeat of 2008, when blacks “outperformed” their eligible voter share for the first time on record.

—White voters also outperformed their eligible vote share, but not at the levels seen in years past. In 2012, whites represented 72 percent of total votes cast, compared to their 71.1 percent eligible vote share. As recently as 2004, whites typically outperformed their eligible vote share by at least 2 percentage points. McDonald notes that in 2012, states with significant black populations did not experience as much of a turnout decline as other states. That would indicate a lower turnout for whites last November since overall voter turnout declined.

—Latinos now make up 17 percent of the population but 11 percent of eligible voters, due to a younger median age and lower rates of citizenship and voter registration. Because of lower turnout, they represented just 10 percent of total 2012 votes cast. Despite their fast growth, Latinos aren’t projected to surpass the share of eligible black voters until 2024, when each group will be roughly 13 percent. By then, 1 in 3 eligible voters will be nonwhite.

—In 2026, the total Latino share of voters could jump to as high as 16 percent, if nearly 11 million immigrants here illegally become eligible for U.S. citizenship. Under a proposed bill in the Senate, those immigrants would have a 13-year path to citizenship. The share of eligible white voters could shrink to less than 64 percent in that scenario. An estimated 80 percent of immigrants here illegally, or 8.8 million, are Latino, although not all will meet the additional requirements to become citizens.

“The 2008 election was the first year when the minority vote was important to electing a U.S. president. By 2024, their vote will be essential to victory,” Frey said. “Democrats will be looking at a landslide going into 2028 if the new Hispanic voters continue to favor Democrats.”

___

Even with demographics seeming to favor Democrats in the long term, it’s unclear whether Obama’s coalition will hold if blacks or younger voters become less motivated to vote or decide to switch parties.

Minority turnout tends to drop in midterm congressional elections, contributing to larger GOP victories as happened in 2010, when House control flipped to Republicans.

The economy and policy matter. Exit polling shows that even with Obama’s re-election, voter support for a government that does more to solve problems declined from 51 percent in 2008 to 43 percent last year, bolstering the view among Republicans that their core principles of reducing government are sound.

The party’s “Growth and Opportunity Project” report released last month by national leaders suggests that Latinos and Asians could become more receptive to GOP policies once comprehensive immigration legislation is passed.

Whether the economy continues its slow recovery also will shape voter opinion, including among blacks, who have the highest rate of unemployment.

Since the election, optimism among nonwhites about the direction of the country and the economy has waned, although support for Obama has held steady. In an October AP-GfK poll, 63 percent of nonwhites said the nation was heading in the right direction; that’s dropped to 52 percent in a new AP-GfK poll. Among non-Hispanic whites, however, the numbers are about the same as in October, at 28 percent.

Democrats in Congress merit far lower approval ratings among nonwhites than does the president, with 49 percent approving of congressional Democrats and 74 percent approving of Obama.

William Galston, a former policy adviser to President Bill Clinton, says that in previous elections where an enduring majority of voters came to support one party, the president winning re-election — William McKinley in 1900, Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936 and Ronald Reagan in 1984 — attracted a larger turnout over his original election and also received a higher vote total and a higher share of the popular vote. None of those occurred for Obama in 2012.

Only once in the last 60 years has a political party been successful in holding the presidency more than eight years — Republicans from 1980-1992.

“This doesn’t prove that Obama’s presidency won’t turn out to be the harbinger of a new political order,” Galston says. “But it does warrant some analytical caution.”

Early polling suggests that Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton could come close in 2016 to generating the level of support among nonwhites as Obama did in November, when he won 80 percent of their vote. In a Fox News poll in February, 75 percent of nonwhites said they thought Clinton would make a good president, outpacing the 58 percent who said that about Vice President Joe Biden.

Benjamin Todd Jealous, president of the NAACP, predicts closely fought elections in the near term and worries that GOP-controlled state legislatures will step up efforts to pass voter ID and other restrictions to deter blacks and other minorities from voting. In 2012, courts blocked or delayed several of those voter ID laws and African-Americans were able to turn out in large numbers only after a very determined get-out-the-vote effort by the Obama campaign and black groups, he said.

Jealous says the 2014 midterm election will be the real bellwether for black turnout. “Black turnout set records this year despite record attempts to suppress the black vote,” he said.

___

AP Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta and News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.
___

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2013 Capitol Hill Blue

Enhanced by Zemanta

Changing attitudes found among working mothers

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's chief operating officer, speaks at a luncheon for the American Society of News Editors in San Diego. In the Pew Research Center study being released Thursday, March 14, 2013 researchers saw a big spike in the share of working mothers who said they'd prefer to work full time; 37 percent said that was their ideal, up from 21 percent in 2007. The poll comes amid a national debate on women in the workplace ignited by Sandberg, who writes in a new book about the need for women to be more professionally aggressive.  (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, speaks at a luncheon for the American Society of News Editors in San Diego. In the Pew Research Center study being released Thursday, March 14, 2013 researchers saw a big spike in the share of working mothers who said they’d prefer to work full time; 37 percent said that was their ideal, up from 21 percent in 2007. The poll comes amid a national debate on women in the workplace ignited by Sandberg, who writes in a new book about the need for women to be more professionally aggressive. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

Working mothers increasingly want full-time jobs, and tough economic times might be a big reason, according to a national survey.

In the Pew Research Center study being released Thursday, researchers saw a big spike in the share of working mothers who said they’d prefer to work full time; 37 percent said that was their ideal, up from 21 percent in 2007.

The poll comes amid a national debate on women in the workplace ignited by top Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg, who writes in a new book about the need for women to be more professionally aggressive.

In “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” Sandberg argues that women have not made true progress in the workplace over the past decade and that they need to raise their hands more and “lean in” if they want to land more senior positions in corporate America.

The shift toward full-time work in the Pew poll, however, coincides with the recession and may have less to do with career ambitions than with financial realities.

“Women aren’t necessarily evolving toward some belief or comfort level with work,” says study co-author Kim Parker, an associate director at the center. “They are also reacting to outside forces and in this case, it is the economy.”

Among women who said their financial situations aren’t sufficient to meet basic expenses, about half said working full time was best for them. Of the women who said they live comfortably, only 31 percent said full time was their best situation.

Melody Armstrong, 34, of Hampton, N.H., works full time and says she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It works better for my family, and for our finances,” Armstrong said in an interview. “It helps pay the bills and we can enjoy the lifestyle we have. We need to have two incomes.”

Armstrong and her husband have six children between them, a blended family with one child off to college and a baby at home. She works for Double Black Imaging, a Colorado-based company that sells medical monitors. Armstrong says her company gives her the flexibility she needs to work her sales position from home.

“I do some work early in the morning or after dinner,” Armstrong says, and can adjust around her children’s school and sports schedules.

Mothers’ attitudes — both for those who work outside the home and those who don’t — have changed significantly. Among women with children under 18 years old, the proportion of those who say they would prefer to work full time has increased from 20 percent in 2007 to 32 percent last year.

When all adults were asked about working moms, however, just 16 percent said the best situation for a young child is to have a mother working full time. Slightly over 40 percent said part time was ideal, and one-third said staying home was best for kids.

Guiomar Ochoa, 38, of Chevy Chase, Md., has two young children and works full time. She says she’d rather work part time but says it’s just not an option for her family.

“We just can’t afford to not have two full-time incomes,” Ochoa says. “We wouldn’t be able to do it otherwise.”

Ochoa, an international specialist with the National Endowment for the Arts, says she’s doing her best to juggle her career and caring for her children.

“I’ve done a really good job of wearing my mom hat when I get home and putting everything aside as far as work goes and focusing on them,” said Ochoa.

Most moms in the poll expressed confidence as parents. Nearly three-quarters of mothers with children under 18 said they were doing an excellent or very good job raising their children. Fathers were asked that question, too, and 64 percent gave themselves high marks.

Other findings in the poll:

—Roughly half of working mothers and fathers say they would rather be home with their children but work because they need the income.

—Fifty-six percent of working mothers and 50 percent of working fathers say it’s either very or somewhat difficult for them to balance work and family.

—Forty percent of working mothers with children under 18 and 34 percent of working fathers say they always feel rushed.

The Pew Research findings are based on a survey of 2,511 adults nationwide conducted Nov. 28-Dec. 5, 2012. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points.

____

The Pew Research Center report can be found at: http://www.pewresearch.org/modern-parenthood/
___

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2013 Capitol Hill Blue

Enhanced by Zemanta

After 40 years, most Americans oppose overturning abortion ruliing

NARAL Pro-Choice New Hampshire volunteer Gail Laker-Phelps (L) and NARAL Pro-Choice New Hampshire Campaign Director Melissa Bernardin put address labels mailers which read, "Do you want politicians in your bedroom?" in Concord, New Hampshire October 27, 2012. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi
NARAL Pro-Choice New Hampshire volunteer Gail Laker-Phelps (L) and NARAL Pro-Choice New Hampshire Campaign Director Melissa Bernardin put address labels mailers which read, “Do you want politicians in your bedroom?” in Concord, New Hampshire October 27, 2012.
REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

Most Americans remain opposed to overturning the controversial Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, which 40 years ago legalized abortion at least in the first three months of pregnancy, according to a poll released Wednesday.

The poll by the Pew Research Center found that 63 percent of Americans believe that Roe v. Wade should not be completely overturned, compared to 29 percent who believe it should be. These opinions have changed little from surveys conducted in 2003 and 1992, Pew reported.

Michael Dimock, director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, said it is uncommon to see so little change in attitudes on a controversial issue.

“They really haven’t changed a lot over the years which is kind of interesting because a lot of other social issues have changed a lot, gay marriage being the most notable example,” said Dimock.

He noted that opinions on issues such as gay marriage sometimes have a sharp generational divide, with younger people more likely to favor it, so national feelings change over time.

But the abortion issue shows only modest generational differences, and no gender gap.

Those most likely to favor upholding Roe v. Wade at 69 percent are the “baby boomers” aged 50-64, who were children or young adults when the case was decided on January 22, 1973. This group was followed by those 18-29 years old, who favored upholding the decision by 68 percent.

NARAL Pro-Choice America, a national abortion rights group, said the data confirms what NARAL has found in its own research.

“This poll is a reminder that the public clearly agrees, and has done so for decades,” said Tarek Rizek, communications director for NARAL.

Joseph Scheidler, prominent abortion opponent and national director of the Pro-Life Action League, said opinions about abortion have changed since 1973 because of advances like ultrasound, which allow a better understanding of fetal life.

“I don’t worry much about these polls…” said Scheidler. “I think a majority of Americans prefer to be called pro-life.” He said knocking down Roe v. Wade – which would return the issue to the states – is not as important as educating people on “the great evil” of abortion.

The Pew poll also found that 53 percent of the U.S. public say the issue of abortion is not that important compared to other issues – the first time that number has been over 50 percent. Dimock said this may reflect Americans’ current preoccupation with issues such as the national debt and gun control.

There are still wide religious differences over whether to overturn Roe v. Wade and the morality of abortion, the poll found. White evangelical Protestants are the only religious group in which a majority – 54 percent – favors overturning the decision.

Large percentages of white mainline Protestants (76 percent), black Protestants (65 percent) and white Catholics (63 percent) say the ruling should not be overturned.

U.S. Roman Catholic Bishops called for nine days of prayer and penance starting Saturday to mark the Roe v. Wade anniversary. In their press release, the bishops asked for prayers for “healing and conversion” for elected officials who support abortion and for all people whose lives have been affected by it.

The Pew poll also shows that 47 percent of Americans say they believe it is morally wrong to have an abortion. These opinions have changed only modestly in recent years.

Younger people are less likely to know what Roe v. Wade was about. While most respondents over 30 knew Roe v. Wade dealt with abortion, only 44 percent of those under 30 knew this, the poll found. The question over whether the decision should be overturned was asked after it was defined to respondents.

The poll was based on interviews with a national sample of 1,502 adults, aged 18 or over, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

Full results of the poll can be seen here: http://www.pewforum.org/Abortion/roe-v-wade-at-40.aspx
___

Copyright © 2013 Thomson Reuters. All right reserved.

Copyright © 2013 Capitol Hill Blue

Enhanced by Zemanta

White male vote more important than ever for Romney, Republicans

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney smiles while meeting members of the assembly line at Ariel Corporation before a town hall campaign stop in Mount Vernon, Ohio October 10, 2012.
(REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)

With the race between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama tightening, the Republican needs one group more than any other to drive him to the White House: white men.

For Romney, the support of white male voters offers the likeliest path to the presidency, even as betting on white men is proving an increasingly risky proposition for Republicans.

His reliance on that voter group becomes more acute as polls show him far behind with African-Americans, lagging badly among Hispanics, and at a disadvantage with women in many polls, despite overall poll numbers showing him essentially tied with Obama in recent days.

Ninety percent of Republican voters were white in 2008, according to exit polls, while white women tend to be more evenly split between the two parties.

The bulwark of white male support is slowly eroding. For decades, each presidential election has offered a smaller pool of white voters. That puts pressure on Romney to secure a greater share than previous Republican presidential nominees of the shrinking proportion of the electorate made up by white men.

Adding to Romney’s electoral challenge: white male voters are more conservative and describe their views in ways increasingly different from the rest of the population, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling. That trend stretches a candidate who must simultaneously retain his base and increase the diversity of his supporters.

White male voters currently pose challenges for both campaigns. A smaller percentage of likely white male voters said it preferred Obama than voted for him in 2008. At the same time, a smaller percentage of white male voters also favors Romney than it did John McCain in his losing effort four years ago.

If Romney does not improve on McCain’s performance among white men, the electorate’s second largest voting demographic after white women, he will likely repeat McCain’s fate, pollsters and demographers said. Obama faces similar odds: a huge dip in white male support could spell the end of his time in office.

According to Reuters/Ipsos polling conducted October 1 to October 7, likely white male voters favored Romney 55.5 percent to 31.9 percent. Six percent of likely male voters said they were undecided. (For a graphic and poll details, please click here http://bit.ly/SMtn5N)

Romney’s advantage over Obama exceeds McCain’s, but falls short of his fellow Republican’s total share of the white male vote. In 2008, McCain outpaced Obama among white male voters 57 percent to 41 percent, according to exit polls.

“The fact that (Romney) is right in line with McCain does mean he has work to do,” said Ipsos pollster Julia Clark.

PRESSURE ON OBAMA TOO

In 2010, whites fled from Democratic candidates. White voters supported Republicans 60 percent to 38 percent in the midterm elections, according to exit polls. In 2006, Republicans held only a 4-point advantage among white voters.

For Democrats, who count on consistent support among Latinos and overwhelming support among blacks, a 22-point disadvantage among white voters will not be as daunting in the future. The share of white voters in the electorate continues to slide. When Republican Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, 89 percent of voters were white. By 2008, that figure had fallen to 73.4 percent.

Contributing to the decline in the share of white voters is the burst in eligible Latino voters. Hispanics saw their number of eligible voters increase 21.4 percent from 2004 to 2008, nearly five times the rate of growth of eligible voters in the general population, according to the Pew Research Center.

But for now, white men outnumber all minorities put together, and Obama and Romney in recent weeks have crisscrossed Ohio and Iowa as the candidates and their surrogates blanket coalfields and automobile factories hoping to lure male support in predominantly white places.

Of course, gender and race offer only a simplified snapshot of the electorate. For instance, Obama leads among likely white male voters aged 18 to 29, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling The president’s advantage over Romney falls within the poll’s margin of error.

The fathers and grandfathers of those young men greatly favor Romney: likely white male voters over 60 preferred the former Massachusetts governor to Obama by 62 percent to 26.3 percent during the week ending October 7.

“Older white men are the people (Romney) has to turn out,” said William Frey, a demographer with Brookings Institute.

WHITE MEN AND WOMEN SPLIT

White men find themselves parting not only from how minorities vote but from white women.

In Reuters/Ipsos polling ending September 30, 36.5 percent of white men said the Republican Party better served the middle class, while 32.8 percent said the Democrats did.

That advantage flips when white women are polled. They give Democrats a nearly 5-point advantage over Republicans when it comes to the middle class. Minorities say Democrats serve the needs of middle-class Americans by a margin of nearly 40 points.

While white men picked Romney over Obama as the candidate with the right values by 43.5 percent to 31.4 during the week ending October 7, white women showed greater ambivalence, giving the advantage to Romney 37.9 percent to 33.1 percent.

Minorities give Obama a nearly 50-point advantage on the question.

Such numbers help explain the Republican Party’s dedication to showcasing leading minority and female lawmakers and candidates at the party convention in August. It also underscores how dependent Romney is on turning out white men at the polls.

While Obama bettered McCain among blacks by 90 percentage points, African-Americans accounted for 12 percent of voters in 2008, according to exit polls. There were more than six times as many white voters as black voters four years ago.

Hispanic voters turned out for Obama by a 2-to-1 margin. They accounted for less than 10 percent of voters.

Given those numbers, the growth in minority populations could be a boon for future Democratic candidates, but its benefit is unlikely to prove decisive in 2012.

The good news for Obama supporters hoping demographic change will overcome the struggling economy: Obama starts from a position of strength. His performance among white men, feared as a possible weak spot for the first African-American major party nominee, was impressive in 2008, netting 41 percent of white male voters, Obama outperformed every previous Democratic nominee since Jimmy Carter.

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2012

Enhanced by Zemanta

New Pew poll puts Romney ahead of Obama

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney speaks during a campaign rally in Port St. Lucie, Florida October 7, 2012.
(REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney‘s strong performance in last week’s debate helped him pull ahead of President Barack Obama, a Pew Research Center poll showed on Monday.

Likely voters favored Romney in the presidential race by 49 percent to Obama’s 45 percent, while Romney came up even at 46 percent with Obama among registered voters, Pew said. Romney had trailed Obama by nine points among likely voters in September.

Other polls found that Romney got a bump from last week’s debate, the first of three presidential debates, but most showed Obama retaining the lead.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll on Sunday, for example, found 47 percent of likely voters saying they would vote for Obama and 45 percent for Romney if the November 6 election were held now.

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey of 1,511 adults, including 1,201 registered voters, conducted October 4-7 found that voters by almost three to one said Romney did a better job than Obama in the October 3 debate.

“Romney is seen as the candidate who has new ideas and is viewed as better able than Obama to improve the jobs situation and reduce the budget deficit,” said Pew in a statement.

Romney’s favorable rating rose five percentage points in September to hit 50 percent among registered voters for the first time in Pew Research Center surveys, it said.

Romney also achieved gains over the past month among women, white non-Hispanics and those younger than 50, said Pew. It noted that likely women voters are now evenly divided at 47 percent each for Obama and Romney, when last month, Obama led Romney by 18 points among women likely to vote.

This week, the focus of the campaign shifts to the debate on Thursday between Vice President Joe Biden and the Republican nominee to replace him, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Anti-war sentiment runs rampant among Iraq and Afghan war veterans

Veterans join the NATO protests in Chicago (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

During the Vietnam war, many who served in that controversial conflict became anti-war activists and some turned in their medals or tossed them over the fence at the White House.

It’s happening again.

Irag and Afghan war vets joined in the protests at last week’s NATO summit in Chicago.  At one point, a group of more than three dozen veterans of both conflicts lined up and threw their medals over a fence.

Said former naval officer Leah Bolger:

We’re standing up to the illegal wars of both NATO and America.  The atrocities have to stop.  We have to to make America and the world aware.

A recent Pew Research Center poll found 33 percent of veterans who have served since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying neither war was worth the cost.

Retired Army Co. Ann Wright resigned from the State Department in 2003 to protest the U.S. invasion of Iraq.   The 29-year-military veteran told The Christian Science Monitor:

Military personnel know America will always have a military, but there is growing concern over the way it is being used.  These concerns include the use of torture, illegal detentions, and both soldiers and the public being lied to about the actual reasons for going into combat.

Copyright © 2012 Capitol Hill Blue

Enhanced by Zemanta