Thursday, February 4, 2010

No East Coast Bias Here

Blasted on the front page of both the New York Times and Washington Post today is a news story about brake problems with the Toyota Prius, which Toyota sold about 140,000 of in the US last year. You'd think everyone in the country drove one.

In fact the Prius is a tiny percentage of the U.S. market. The Ford F-150, which has seen its sales fall by 50% in recent years STILL sold more than 400,000 last year alone.

Granted, Toyota is news these days, especially Toyotas with problems. And of course if you went to an Ivy League school, live among guilt ridden left-coast intellectuals and believe in global warming, you need to either drive one of these things or act like you want to own one. So the people who make news decisions actually think most of us envy Prius drivers or secretly wish we could drive one.

News Flash - most Americans snicker at Prius drivers. Why, we ask, would anyone pay 5 grand more for a smaller version of a Camry unless they were a posturing, annoying person? In fact some guy has made money with this awesome bumper sticker reminding us that you can't spell pretentious without "prius." The Times and Post reporting on this "story" so prominently is like doing a front page story on decline wine production in Zimbabwe or a bowling tournament in North Korea. It's not relevant to real people. Of course that describes a lot of what passes for "news" in the MSM these days.

Does Thou Protest Too Much?

Keith Hennessey is one of my favorite bloggers because he actually uses data and political economy approaches to his posts. Still, he worked in the Bush White House, so you have to take his work with a grain of salt. This passage from today's post just struck me:
Yes, President Obama faced some enormous economic challenges early in his term. His predecessor did as well, even before the crisis of 2008: a bursting tech bubble leading to a recession in 2001, an economic seizure caused by 9/11, corporate governance scandals in 2002, a recession in 2002-2003, the economic uncertainty triggered by invading Iraq (this one was a policy choice), and eventually oil spiking above $100 per barrel.

I think it’s OK for a President to talk about the challenges he and the Nation face. It helps to set reasonable expectations. I think a President should propose solutions to those challenges and describe a brighter future that he hopes to deliver. I think it’s tacky and tiresome for a President to keep bashing his predecessor, especially more than a year after taking office. I acknowledge that my perspective on this point is biased by my professional past.

I also think this refrain weakens President Obama. He is portraying himself as a victim of forces that are beyond his control. A President should want people to focus on him and what he’s going to do, not on a comparison of him with someone else (anyone else). President Obama should want people talking about the Obama Agenda rather than about what happened ten years ago. Ten years ago.
He then goes onto argue that Obama needs to establish some new set of policies to differeniate himself from Bush or at least work to rollback the stuff he's attacking, like the Medicare drug benefit of that stupid pair of wars that Obama promised he'd end.

My question is this - where are the positive policies in government these days? The Democrats, scarred after the health care debacle, aren't getting anywhere near new ideas. The Republicans just sit back and attack the Democrats on wasteful spending, but as even Keith acknowledges, the GOP is partially responsible for this mess and have zero track record for limiting government growth. There's a real opportunity for a policy entrepreneur in this political environment. I wonder who will seize this chance? Any candidates? Mike Pence? Scott Brown?