Echoes of Jimmy Carter

At the New Hampshire GOP primaries this year I saw a sign that said “It takes a Carter to get a Reagan.”

I was reminded of the Carter / Obama comparison Sunday when I heard a replay of Michele Bachmann’s speech to conservative college students at the 2012 Eagle Forum. She described working on the Carter campaign when she was in college. Yes, Michele Bachmann was a Carter Democrat (she liked his family values). But soon after his election she realized how badly his policies were affecting America and had a personal “renaissance,” became a Reagan Republican and obviously has not looked back. The entire five minute clip below is worth watching. Ms. Bachmann discusses the forecast $17 trillion in unfunded commitments under Obamacare, how shocked she was when she heard the Obamacare Supreme Court decision and the need to begin working immediately to help elect Mitt Romney and win the “triple crown” of the presidency, the House and the Senate.

Those who can remember Carter’s presidency remember a 20% prime interest rate, “stagflation,” rising gas prices and lack of foreign policy leadership. Past has indeed been prologue.

I’m struck by the similarity to our current situation. So was our own David Parker in his own article here on Mitt Romney Central a couple weeks ago.

But Ms. Bachmann also reminds us in the video that an economy can turn around very quickly under the right leadership. In 1980 it was Ronald Reagan. In 2012, it’s Mitt Romney.

Many college Democrats who worked for President Obama in the last election may find it hard to return to the message of “hope and change” as they are faced with the realities of President Obama’s policies. While we have very low interest rates due to the Federal Reserve’s efforts to jump start the economy, we still have the slowest economic recovery since the depression, slowing job growth (with only 80,000 jobs added in June), a lack of leadership in foreign policy and rising gas prices. Governor Romney has said this election is about the next generation, and it is. Recent college graduates are now out looking for a job in the Obama economy, having done what everyone has told them they should: work hard, get an education, get ahead. But they’re finding fewer opportunities under President Obama, not more.

And no, this is no longer President Bush’s economy. With Obama trying to take credit for the job growth to date, he must also take “credit” for a 2/3 drop in the rate of growth in the job numbers from last quarter (see Investors.com, 225,000 jobs added in Q2, down from 677,000 added in Q1). It’s now officially Obama’s economy.

In 1980, Reagan was also criticized by the left for being too extreme, and by the GOP for failing to unite the party and quell the third-party candidacy of John Anderson. Mitt Romney similarly has had to endure attacks on his character from the left and a longer-than-expected GOP primary. But of course Ronald Reagan famously asked the question: “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” and emerged with a landslide victory. Mitt Romney can legitimately ask the same question today.

Time will tell if the results will be the same on November 6, 2012 as they were November 4, 1980. But in “Mitt Romney’s Moment,” Pittsburgh Tribune Review contributor Salena Zito suggests Obama is, in fact, losing his support among the former faithful. She attended the rally at which Mitt reacted to President Obama’s “you didn’t build that” comments, and found at least two Democrats converted to Mitt:

Bill Brasco of nearby Jeanette isn’t just a Democrat. He is an elected Democrat, serving as the local school board president for more than 42 years, the second-longest-serving board president in state history.

“Been a Democrat since I turned 21 and proud of it,” he said, adding that he will not vote for Obama in November.

“I just do not like the direction this country is going under the president,” he explained.

Brasco, 75, was one of many Democrats giving Romney more than a dozen standing ovations at the Westmoreland County rally.

“I could not have been more impressed,” he said. “I particularly liked when he talked about his five-point plan to get the economy roaring.”

Brasco, who spent most of his working career in sales, listed Romney’s points as if he himself had authored them: “Energy, trade, balanced budget, better education through training and skills, and economic freedom. … No, he was impressive, that was an amazing event.”

Note that what impressed Mr. Brasco was Governor Romney’s concrete plan for economic success. Governor Romney has been criticized for not being specific, but when Mr. Brasco heard Governor Romney speak, it was the specificity that impressed him.

What’s more, Ms. Zito remarks that the Obama campaign character attacks on Governor Romney are falling flat.

…weeks of Obama’s attacks on Romney’s time at Bain Capital and demands for the release of Romney’s taxes have not dissuaded the GOP base or soured swing Democrats or independents against Romney.

The effect, remarkably, has been the reverse.

The attacks on Romney as a businessman are ridiculous, said Mark Lisovich, who lives here. The 51-year-old father of five – including a wounded Navy combat corpsman – is another Democrat who voted for Obama but now supports Romney.

“Without private-equity firms like Bain, I wouldn’t have a job,” he said of the small business he works for that received start-up money from investors. “And what will the tax thing prove? That Romney is rich?”

Lisovich was optimistic that things would improve when he voted for Obama in 2008; now he knows better, he said. “Romney has the right vision for the country, and he understands that businesses small and large are what make America great.”

In discussing Obama’s loss of support, Michael Medved noted the following in USA Today this week:

…several of Obama’s hope-and-change boosters have deserted his cause and in some cases enlisted with the opposition. Artur Davis, three-term Alabama congressman and Congressional Black Caucus member, delivered a seconding speech for Obama in 2008, but he now backs Romney and has changed his registration to Republican. West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, a former governor, says he can’t commit to supporting Obama this time, and the state’s incumbent governor, Earl Ray Tomblin, expressed similar sentiments. Colin Powell, who proudly joined the Obama’s first historic campaign for the White House, insists he remains uncommitted in 2012.

There are further indicators Obama is at a loss as to what he can say to convince voters to give him a second term, much as President Carter had no response to Reagan’s “are you better off?” He appears to be pouring money into polling and message-testing, which of course means there’s no obvious reason he can cite why he should be re-elected. You don’t spend $15 million finding a message if you already have one.

With an inability to deliver hope and change, the President is having to spend money to create a new “raison d’etre.” David Hill of The Hill explains why this 3X-4X of usual poll spending is “obscene”:

Some of you may be saying that spending $15 million is no big deal given that this is a presidential election. You are mistaken. This is an obscene, over-the-top amount of money. Obama faces only about 12 to 15 electorates that are worthy of sampling separately. There is the national electorate, and then there are the individual electorates of swing states, and then there are special targets like his partisan base of Democrats and swing voters like independents. Even if he polled each of these sub-samples every week since the first of the year, he couldn’t come close to accounting for the amount that’s supposedly been spent.

Just by normal ratios or rules of thumb for campaign spending, the research outlays are out of whack. For presidential campaigns, polling should fall into a range of 3 to 4 percent of the total budget. In this case, the percentage is much higher. It is being reported that the Obama campaign has spent $100 million thus far on campaign ads. If they have, in fact, spent $15 million researching those ads, they are genuinely out of control over at the Democratic “research institute” where all this political science is percolating.

It’s interesting to try and follow the money, but it’s also disturbing. Why must Obama spend so much money to find his way? Voters are likely to be turned off to realize that even a teleprompter is not enough for this president. He also needs a phalanx of pollsters to tell him what to say.

Even William Galston of the New Republic recognized this week that the attacks on Romney’s Bain experience are not having the “Swift Boat” impact the Democratic faithful were hoping for. He argues what really happened in 2004 was not that John Kerry got “swift boated,” but that President Bush convinced the American people he was worthy of re-election, something at which President Obama has not yet succeeded:

The real story of … 2004 isn’t that attacks disqualified Kerry as a potential president—they didn’t—but rather that in the two months from Labor Day until the election, the incumbent persuaded just enough people that his record warranted reelection.

Obama now faces a similar task. In the fourteenth quarter of his presidency, which ended July 19, his job approval averaged 46.8 percent … the fact remains that no incumbent has ever been reelected with a job approval below 50 percent. … The people have noticed the difference between 225 thousand new jobs per month and 75 thousand, and they’ve drawn the obvious inference: Only 24 percent of Americans think the economy is improving, down from 33 percent in April.

So the president has some work to do, and he can’t get the job done simply by attacking his adversary. Indeed, as I’ve argued in previous articles, the evidence that the all-out assault on Romney record at Bain Capital is making a difference remains thin at best. Since July 1, while Obama’s survey average has declined from 47.5 to 46.0 percent, Romney’s has actually edged up slightly, from 44.1 to 44.7 percent.

The President’s approval rating needs some serious help for him to win re-election, argued Dan Clifton, as quoted in Examiner.com earlier this month.

Mr. Clifton said:

Today’s employment report provides another headwind for President Obama’s reelection. Employment growth is not strong enough to boost real incomes. As a result, sentiment remains very tepid. It is this sentiment that translates directly into how voters view their elected officials. We have found a fairly strong inverse correlation between the President’s approval rating and the unemployment rate. No President has won reelection with an approval rating below 50%.

Following the trend line, unemployment would have to fall to below 7.6% for President Obama to get to a 50% approval rating by election day. That seems unlikely.

Is Obama the next Jimmy Carter? The reality is that polling is too close to predict, and at this point in the last few elections, the ultimate winner was trailing the polls. In other words, there’s a long way to go. While the trend and the historical comparison is encouraging for Mitt, whether the U.S. electorate makes President Obama the next Jimmy Carter very likely depends on how much excitement Mitt can generate and how deeply his supporters dig in over the next 100 days to help. Things are obviously different than in 1980, but I’m hopeful the American people will come to their senses as they did then and say no to continuing “Forward” with 2012′s version of the inevitable “malaise” caused by the policies of the left.

About Paul Johnson:

Paul Johnson is an attorney for venture capitalists and their portfolio companies by day, husband and father of three teenage boys by night. He’s an avid supporter of Mitt Romney for president and, as a graduate of Brigham Young University, a BYU football and basketball fan. Paul also enjoys competing in triathlons. Because he’s in the “Clydesdale” (over 200 lb.) class, he has even had podium finishes from time to time. Paul also has the distinction of being a big enough U2 fan to be willing to travel to Dublin to see them in their native environment.

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11 Responses to Echoes of Jimmy Carter

  1. Jimmy Hall says:

    Thank you Governor Romney for standing up for “WE THE PEOPLE”

  2. Victor Lundquist says:

    An outstanding piece! Thanks Paul.

    Those excerpts at the end of staunch Obama supporters from 2008, even elected officials, are amazing. Those are not merely anecdotal either. It is fascinating to me how the MSM simply ignores these important defections from Obama’s tent.

    Outstanding!

  3. Uaintdown says:

    Correction on Bachmann’s Statements: Mitt Romney was ALWAYS for the repeal of obamacare.

  4. AfricansforRomney says:

    Interesting article. I guess, history is repeating itself. Carter & Obama are out of this world. Both shares the same lib playbook, have naive view about the world. Carter thinks that everything would be o.k as long as people vote, the Carter center or Carter in person watches/monitors elections around the world. LOL! How many evils Obama and Carter pushed to power so far? the number is growing. They both think democracy is one size fits all.

    Ummm, for me, it is no longer the economy, though. This admin taking this country to somewhere we’ve never seen before. I tolerate opposing views on sexual orientation to some point, but something is seriously wrong in this country, when you read on paper the world superpower US military gay parade article, or sexual orientation is a top # 1 issue in the US military. We don’t read this type of craps about China, Russia or North Korea military.

    Obama=One Term Prez !

  5. phyllis says:

    Great article Paul. However, Jimmy Carter, being the left wing liberal he was and huge spender is small potatoes compared to Obama. Americans don’t have a clue the damage Obama and his cronies have done already. Huge taxes are looming and inflation….Romney will need experts to help steer the sinking ship and it won’t happen over-night or in 4 years. We need a GOP congress if we want to accomplish anything.

  6. Tom says:

    It was tough time to be in government for anyone in the 1970s due to the economic stagflation caused by the oil crisis not to mention in the wake of the Vietnam War. However, Carter did take a an intiative that Reagan should’ve continued that is haunting us today.

    The mess we are in now was carried over from the Bush years and it will take a long time to resolve these problems even beyond whoever becomes president for the next four years. But the problem is much more strategic than anyone thinks. What is causing this economic stagnation and will continue to cause it down the road is the shrinking supply of oil. Energy is the juice of the modern economy. Without a sufficient supply (which has been increasing less), it can’t run well. Modern civilization should have done it a long time ago. One of the biggest mistakes it ever made was not balancing the energy spectrum. We use too much energy by developing technological products from light bulbs to cars to to i-Pads over the last 150 years, but did relatively little to advance the supply side of the energy spectrum. So much so that it has been said that if Thomas Edison came back, he would recognize today’s power system. One reason why is that petroleum has been historically cheap with the exception of the 1970s and in the last 10 years or so. It is also very reliable and relatively easy to implement into an energy source like through the internal combustion engine. But we are running out of them. There has been little profit incentive for private industry to create alternatives.

    How did this current crisis come about and affected our economy today? In the 1950s, the U.S. government created incentives to expand energy usage. Title 1 made it easier for suburban communities to be built and middle class families rushed out into them. The new suburban homes used up more power and people started to drive more as the new suburbs were complemented by the construction of the National Highway System under the Eisenhower administration, perhaps the biggest man-made project in history. This led to the biggest economic expansion and the biggest expansion of the middle class in American history. But this all came at a price. Energy usage spiked like never before. Furthermore, growth in polymer-related industries like the wider usage of plastic and rubber in the 60s and 70s caused further demand for petroleum. In 10-15 short years, the United States hit its peak in the domestic production of oil in the 1970s. An energy crisis hit which was further exacerbated by the Arab oil embargo.

    In the late 1970s, an alternative energy program was created by the U.S. gov’t under the Carter administration that included renewable energy in respone to the energy crisis. That program was scraped in the 1980s in favor of importing more oil under the Reagan administration. The economic stagnation (or stagflation) of the 1970s and the subsequent Reagan’s years of the 1980s also changed the political culture of the United States which it become gradually institutionally conservative. Liberal economic policies of “taxing and spending” were discredited and blamed for the economic downturn of the 1970s by conservatives like Reagan. He and others misidentified or overlooked the real problem that caused the downturn: SHORTAGE OF ENERGY RELATIVE TO DEMAND. Namely, oil. Energy is the juice of the modern economy. It was no coincidence the stagflation in the 1970s happened during the time of the energy crisis when the U.S. hit its peak in domestic production in the the “black gold” and started to rely more on foreign oil during the time of heightened world tensions. Instead, conservatives MOSTLY wrongly blamed it on liberal policies of too much government. When it was clear that oil was not for the far future (like in the 21st century), Reagan scrapped the alternative energy programs in the 1980s and decided to rely more on imported oil.

    Admittedly, the problem with alternative energy like solar and wind is that the current technology is not capable of providing enough BASE POWER to supply society with energy 24/7. Speculatively, government wasn’t given much of a chance to develop better storage technology for alternatives after its program was scrapped in the 1980s. It could have been done. After all, this is the same government that built the Panama Canal, the Hoover Dam, the Alaska Pipeline, the National Highway System, and helped build the Erie Canal, Transcontinental Railroad, and the suburbs. Putting a man on the moon was a comparatively more difficult task which by the way helped lead to the development of solar power. So was the Manhattan Project that led to nuclear energy. However, because of the polarized political atmosphere in the United States in which conservatism has become gradually extreme since the 1980s and ignorant and dismissive of climate change and alternative energy and even what government has done in the past and can do presently as well as the current budgetary problems due to reckless government fiscal policies in the first decade of the 21st century, little as has been done. Ironically, the institutional conservative movement of the Reagan Revolution that started with conservatives mostly falsely blaming the economic crisis in the 1970s on liberal policies has culminated in the political polarization we have today that is hindering efforts to stem global warming and find alternative energy solutions.See Moreabout an hour ago · Edited · LikeUnlike.Thomas Kim You can look at it for yourself. Every time the economy is showing growth, oil prices rises higher disproportiately in response to growing demand because of higher economic activity. It would knock down growth; continuing economic stagnation. It’s like the 1970s all over again, except it is more gradual, unlike the 70s when it was a sudden shock because the Arab oil embargo (remember the long gas lines?), but this time it much more perpetual because we can’t simply import our way out of high oil prices like we used to. The last 50 years witnessed much turbulence because of dependence on oil. Imagine what the next 50 years would be like if we continue this current course.

  7. Tom says:

    May I remind you that much of that mess was carried over from the Bush years and it will take a lomng time to resolve these problems even beyond whoever becomes president for the next four years. But the problem is much more strategic than you think. What is causing this economic stagnation and will continue to cause it down the road is shrinking supply of oil. Energy is the juice of the modern economy. Without a sufficient supply (which has been increasing less), it can’t run well. Modern civilization should have done it a long time ago. One of the biggest mistakes it ever made was not balancing the energy spectrum. We use too much energy by developing technological products from light bulbs to cars to to i-Pads over the last 150 years, but did relatively little to advance the supply side of the energy spectrum. So much so that it has been said that if Thomas Edison came back, he would recognize today’s power system. One reason why is that petroleum has been historically cheap with the exception of the 1970s and in the last 10 years or so. It is also very reliable and relatively easy to implement into an energy source like through the internal combustion engine. But we are running out of them. There has been little profit incentive for private industry to create alternatives.

    How did this current crisis come about and affected our economy today? In the 1950s, the U.S. government created incentives to expand energy usage. Title 1 made it easier for suburban communities to be built and middle class families rushed out into them. The new suburban homes used up more power and people started to drive more as the new suburbs were complemented by the construction of the National Highway System under the Eisenhower administration, perhaps the biggest man-made project in history. Energy usage spike. This led to the biggest economic expansion and the biggest expansion of the middle class in American history. Furthermore, growth in polymer-related industries like the wider usage of plastic and rubber in the 60s and 70s caused further demand for petroleum. However, this all came at a price. In 10-15 short years, the United States hit its peak in the domestic production of oil in the 1970s. An energy crisis hit which was further exacerbated by the Arab oil embargo.

    In the late 1970s, an alternative energy program was created by the U.S. gov’t under the Carter administration that included renewable energy in respone to the energy crisis. That program was scraped in the 1980s in favor of importing more oil under the Reagan administration. The economic stagnation (or stagflation) of the 1970s and the subsequent Reagan’s years of the 1980s also changed the political culture of the United States which it become gradually institutionally conservative. Liberal economic policies of “taxing and spending” were discredited and blamed for the economic downturn of the 1970s by conservatives like Reagan. He and others misidentified or overlooked the real problem that caused the downturn: SHORTAGE OF ENERGY RELATIVE TO DEMAND. Namely, oil. Energy is the juice of the modern economy. It was no coincidence the stagflation in the 1970s happened during the time of the energy crisis when the U.S. hit its peak in domestic production in the the “black gold” and started to rely more on foreign oil during the time of heightened world tensions. Instead, conservatives MOSTLY wrongly blamed it on liberal policies of too much government. When it was clear that oil was not for the far future (like in the 21st century), Reagan scrapped the alternative energy programs in the 1980s and decided to rely more on imported oil.

    Admittedly, the problem with alternative energy like solar and wind is that the current technology is not capable of providing enough BASE POWER to supply society with energy 24/7. Speculatively, government wasn’t given much of a chance to develop better storage technology for alternatives after its program was scrapped in the 1980s. It could have been done. After all, this is the same government that built the Panama Canal, the Hoover Dam, the Alaska Pipeline, the National Highway System, and helped build the Erie Canal, Transcontinental Railroad, and the suburbs. Putting a man on the moon was a comparatively more difficult task which by the way helped lead to the development of solar power. So was the Manhattan Project that led to nuclear energy. However, because of the polarized political atmosphere in the United States in which conservatism has become gradually extreme since the 1980s and ignorant and dismissive of climate change and alternative energy and even what government has done in the past and can do presently as well as the current budgetary problems due to reckless government fiscal policies in the first decade of the 21st century, little as has been done. Ironically, the institutional conservative movement of the Reagan Revolution that started with conservatives mostly falsely blaming the economic crisis in the 1970s on liberal policies has culminated in the political polarization we have today that is hindering efforts to stem global warming and find alternative energy solutions.

    You can look at it for yourself. Every time the economy is showing growth, oil prices rises higher disproportiately in response to growing demand because of higher economic activity. It would knock down growth; continuing economic stagnation. It’s like the 1970s all over again, except it is more gradual, unlike the 70s when it was a sudden shock because the Arab oil embargo (remember the long gas lines?), but this time it much more perpetual because we can’t simply import our way out of high oil prices like we used to. We had this much trouble in the 50 years because of our over dependency on oil. imagine what the next 50 years would be like if we stay on this current course.

  8. Tom says:

    I disagree that “huge” taxation always damage the economy. tax rates were higher in the 1950s and 60s, but saw perhaps the largest economic growth and the largest growth of the middle class in history. Tax rates were always higher in the 1990s which saw the longest consecutive economic growth in U.S. history. That’s because the gov’t invested money into the economy. Unlike under the Bush years when it wasn’t.

  9. Tom says:

    Phil Gramm: Revoking Glass-Steagall didn’t cause the financial meltdown in 2008.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-07-26/breaking-up-banks-won-t-make-them-safer-ex-senator-says.html

    >>Former U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat who warned in 1999 that repealing Glass-Steagall could lead to “massive taxpayer bailouts” in 10 years, said in a telephone interview that the so-called firewalls that exist between regulated banks and affiliates are like “tissue paper.”
    “It’s just absurd for anybody now to make the case that having these entities under the same corporate umbrella doesn’t pose substantially greater risk,” said Dorgan, who retired from the Senate in 2011 and is a senior policy adviser at law firm Arent Fox LLP. “Phil is just wrong about this. He was wrong 13 years ago and he’s wrong now.”<<

    Does anyone still think that today's economic problems is Obama's fault?

  10. Tom says:

    Here is Carter’s energy plan (April 18, 1977):

    The first principle is that we can have an effective and comprehensive energy policy only if the government takes responsibility for it and if the people understand the seriousness of the challenge and are willing to make sacrifices.

    The second principle is that healthy economic growth must continue. Only by saving energy can we maintain our standard of living and keep our people at work. An effective conservation program will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

    The third principle is that we must protect the environment. Our energy problems have the same cause as our environmental problems — wasteful use of resources. Conservation helps us solve both at once.

    The fourth principle is that we must reduce our vulnerability to potentially devastating embargoes. We can protect ourselves from uncertain supplies by reducing our demand for oil, making the most of our abundant resources such as coal, and developing a strategic petroleum reserve.

    The fifth principle is that we must be fair. Our solutions must ask equal sacrifices from every region, every class of people, every interest group. Industry will have to do its part to conserve, just as the consumers will. The energy producers deserve fair treatment, but we will not let the oil companies profiteer.

    The sixth principle, and the cornerstone of our policy, is to reduce the demand through conservation. Our emphasis on conservation is a clear difference between this plan and others which merely encouraged crash production efforts. Conservation is the quickest, cheapest, most practical source of energy. Conservation is the only way we can buy a barrel of oil for a few dollars. It costs about $13 to waste it.

    The seventh principle is that prices should generally reflect the true replacement costs of energy. We are only cheating ourselves if we make energy artificially cheap and use more than we can really afford.

    The eighth principle is that government policies must be predictable and certain. Both consumers and producers need policies they can count on so they can plan ahead. This is one reason I am working with the Congress to create a new Department of Energy, to replace more than 50 different agencies that now have some control over energy.

    The ninth principle is that we must conserve the fuels that are scarcest and make the most of those that are more plentiful. We can’t continue to use oil and gas for 75 percent of our consumption when they make up seven percent of our domestic reserves. We need to shift to plentiful coal while taking care to protect the environment, and to apply stricter safety standards to nuclear energy.

    The tenth principle is that we must start now to develop the new, unconventional sources of energy we will rely on in the next century.

    Does anyone think we would still have as much problems with energy like $80-$140 a barrel of oil today if we followed some of these principles back then?

  11. Tom says:

    President Obama knows that it would take more than the next four years to fix Bush’s mess of the worst economy since the 1930s and the worst fiscal crisis since maybe the 1790s. The Bush years and the GOP Congress from 1997-2007 left one of the worst legacies in American history by any gov’t. Not to mention the current energy crisis is going to take a lot longer. Of course, Obama is not going to say that aloud in public that. If he does, it will demoralize the populace even more so coming from the top and discourage people from voting, especially those who would vote for him and not for Romney. He has to keep up with appearances. In this case, he is playing politics.