Beware The Easy Story Line

When you start hearing the same story line again and again and again from the media, it's good to be skeptical.  Here's Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly (link):

But it's the nuances and details that poke some important holes in the "anti-incumbent" narrative. Specter didn't struggle because he's a sitting senator; he lost because he ran in a Democratic primary after serving as a Republican for 30 years -- a Republican who backed Bush, Cheney, Santorum, McCain, and Palin. Lincoln's career isn't in jeopardy because she's already in office; she's in trouble because Democratic voters aren't pleased with her voting record and aren't convinced she can win in November.

Even among Republicans, the major shake-ups -- in Kentucky, in Florida, in Utah -- have very little to do with incumbency and a great deal to do with ideology.

The media's rush to oversimplify things is consistent with how major outlets cover developments like these. It's just what they do. But it also leads to unhelpful reporting that doesn't fully capture the larger dynamic.

To be clear, this doesn't mean anti-incumbency isn't going to be a factor this fall.  What it does mean is that the press often picks the facts (or lack of facts) to fit a pre-existing, easy to understand, narrative.  And mainstream reporting seems to have done that again with their headline analysis of yesterday's outcomes.

Hat Tip:  Eric Wagner - Thanks for sending the link along!

Consumer Prices Fall, "Unexpectedly"

I'm expecting Krugman to comment on this as soon as he has finished his grading.  He's been talking about the risk of deflation being far more likely than the risk of inflation in the mid/short run.  Plus, he's also been railing against the 'fear inflation' crowd.  So, I have to believe that this news will make his blog.

May 19 (Bloomberg) -- The cost of living in the U.S. unexpectedly dropped in April for the first time in more than a year, reinforcing forecasts that the Federal Reserve will keep interest rates near zero for much of 2010.

The 0.1 percent fall in the consumer price index was the first decrease since March 2009, figures from the Labor Department showed today in Washington. Excluding food and fuel, the so-called core rate was unchanged, capping the smallest 12- month gain in four decades.

As a side note, I don't think this he will see this as good news either.  It points to high joblessness acting as a dampening pressure on the overall economy.

UPDATE: Just to toot my own horn, I posted this (above) around 1:00 PM ET.  Krugman posted this at 1:51 PM ET.  Nailed it.

The Difference

Kevin Drum has a great blog post that really captures what a lot of us who are now considered left (And 20 years ago would have been considered 'center') really find offensive about the GOP.  It's only one example, but suffice it to say that I get annoyed each time I see a disingenuous equivalency argument made.

It's bad enough that prominent conservative pundits like Rush Limbaugh, Liz Cheney, and Sean Hannity have flirted with the birthers. But what's worse is that birtherism seems to be a perfectly acceptable belief among actual Republican leaders. Sarah Palin thinks it's a question well worth asking. Roy Blunt isn't sure Obama is a citizen. Dick Shelby thinks it's curious that we haven't seen Obama's birth certificate. Michele Bachman recently showed up at a tea party event and palled around with birther queen Orly Taitz. My congressman, John Campbell, said that Obama was a citizen "as far as I know" and then, with a wink and a nod, cosponsored a bill requiring presidential candidates to submit a birth certificate. The bill currently has 13 Republican cosponsors.

This is just a huge difference. With the ambiguous exception of McKinney, who's not exactly a big wheel in Democratic politics, there's just no one of any stature on the liberal/Democratic side of the aisle who buys into trutherism. If Paul Krugman and E.J. Dionne and Rachel Maddow took it up, that would be one thing. If Dick Durbin and John Conyers and George Miller and Jerry Nadler were truthers, that would be another. But they aren't. They don't flirt with it, they don't make jokes about it, and they don't pander to their lefty base by delivering clever applause lines about it. But where the birthers are concerned, Republican politicians and significant conservative thought leaders do. That's the difference.

'Tea Party Candidate'

I heard that the 'Tea Party Candidate' won in Kentucky.  I have mixed thoughts on this kind of headline.
  1. Isn't 'Tea Party Candidate' just a reference that means a member of the GOP who panders to the worst elements of the base by using irrational and populist slogans?
  2. This is likely good for the democrats.  It means that the crazies are running the show in the opposition party.  It also means that the opposition is putting up candidates that have the lowest chance of appealing to, so-called, independent voters.
  3. On the other hand, its probably bad for the country.  I've yet to read a policy position from the 'Tea Party' that could stand up to questioning.  The fact that this group attracts a strong enough following to win primaries, is awful.  Why can't we have a sane opposition?  I have a hard time believing that the democrats will hold onto power for long enough for the GOP to become rational.  When the extremists start winning seats we may see some truly bad government policy.
If you are following the political races, here's one the only link ( you need to click for the significance of yesterday's outcomes.

Projected Returns > Actual Returns

I'm really enjoying this graph.

Basically, be wary of analyst projections.  They seem to be off by a factor of two.
Hat Tip: Paul Kedrosky