Friday, September 30, 2011

European Economic Union Crisis

In a recent DU presentation, a foreign policy expert on Eastern Europe described the threat to fragile democracies posed by the financial crises and especially the foreign ownership of local financial institutions.

Although the European Union (EU) and its financial strategies have had a salutary effect on the economies and democracies of Eastern Europe, it has also produced contradictions that are contributing to the current crisis.

The EU trend since the 1990s and Maastricht Treaty (1991) has been to unify Europe into a type of superstate. This has been accompanied by major centralizaiton and bureacratization of power in Brussels. Democracy in states is undermined by decisions made centrally with only the concensus of elites, many of whom are little known or trusted in their respective member states.

Not only is local democracy undermined, but so is local entrepreneurship. The EU ministeries are buracracies infused with a pro-regulatory anti-market bent that hews to Europe’s generally redistributive social welfare culture related to vacations, work rules, pensions, health care, welfare and unemployment policies.

To save the EU’s concept of integration and the euro, an even more aggressive superstate is being proposed, or at least being encouraged, with a series of preliminary bailouts, local budget restrictions, and other economic and financial rules.

Europe is another battleground between democracy, nationalism, local entrepreneurialism and state capitalism. The West and the alternative in the East (Russia), who is always interested in its former Warsaw Pact members in Eastern Europe, are now in a competition offering models and alliances in Eastern Europe.

Due to globalization, the struggle over Europe’s economy also will have an impact on President Obama as additional economic shocks are a threat to his re-election.

See Hillsdale College article: The crisis of the European Union: Causes and significance

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Will Hispanic Voters Make a Difference?

Will Hispanic voters make a difference was a recent e-mail question to Channel 9’s Sunday YOUR SHOW.

The first challenge is for Hispanic voters to perform up to their demographic potential. The census indicates they are about 20 percent of Colorado’s population, but in the 2010 election, they only made up 12 percent of the voter turnout.

Of course, they are a younger population and tend to be under registered. But even those eligible and registered tend to turn out less than Anglo voters.

Recent polling shows a fall off in support for President Obama among Hispanics. Obama carried 61 percent of Hispanic vote in Colorado in 2008 (69% nationally). Hispanics are a key part of the Obama coalition, and their level of support and turnout could make the difference in a close Colorado race.

See articles:
Washington Post: With Hispanic support for Obama waning, could Latino vote be up for grabs in 2012?
Denver Post: At stop in Denver, Obama calls self “warrior for the working class”

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Obama Plays Defense in Colorado

Colorado has joined the ranks of key battleground states of Ohio, Virginia and Florida. President Barack Obama will visit to promote his $447 billion stimulus legislation.

The latest round of trips launch the President’s fall offensive following his post Labor Day joint session speech. His primary message is to the Democratic base. The Colorado speech is in a Hispanic neighborhood high school in Democratic Denver.

The Colorado Democratic Party has a dominant liberal wing, which handed the state’s delegation overwhelmingly to Obama in the 2008 presidential caucus. And, although labor unions are weak political players in Colorado, they have, like nationally, been more aggressive in recent years with well-placed campaign contributions and effective influence in nomination battles.

Most sought after in general elections are the Hispanic and African-American voter blocs, who can be motivated to vote and have elected local minority leaders who are national players, like former mayors Wellington Webb and Federico Pena.

Obama’s core supporters have been complaining of the lack of a fight in the President and the absence of plan to get long-suffering minority and labor groups jobs. The challenge is to also communicate to the large and critical independent bloc of Colorado voters. The campaign is attempting the difficult task of fueling up the base while still appealing to independents with a message that Republicans are being unreasonable and holding up solutions.

It’s not clear the strategy will work. The message sounds right – bashing Washington always plays – but the visuals and the tone of the visit may be too hot and too partisan for suburban independents.

In general, Obama is playing defense in a state he won by 9 points in 2008.

See articles:
Denver PostPresident Obama to address the public in Denver today to build his base with jobs speech
PoliticoNo Rocky Mountain high for Obama

Friday, September 23, 2011

Hick Neutral on “Bright” Future

Although Democratic leaders strongly believe the state government needs more revenue, they are avoiding endorsing Sen. Rollie Heath’s Proposition 103 that, if approved by voters, would add $500 million annually to state coffers for five years.

Gov. Hickenlooper, in particular, is being questioned about his neutral stance. Republicans are pressuring him to take a position, seeing the initiative as a likely loser and a bigger lose-lose for Hickenlooper. If he opposes it, he loses some support with liberals already unhappy with his moderate positions. And, of course, his opposition will be highlighted by opposition. If he endorses it, he goes back on his anti-tax pledge and provides ammunition for conservative opponents. This conundrum highlights why Democratic leaders wanted Mr. Heath to drop the idea. But Rollie is on his own path in life.

Tim Hoover wrote in the Denver Post on September 18 the latest on Hickenlooper’s effort to avoid the initiative.

“Polling so far doesn’t show that. An August poll conducted by North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling shows Colorado voters rejecting the proposal 47 percent to 45 percent, with 7 percent undecided and a margin of error of 4.3 percentage points. That might seem close, but critics of the PPP polls say the company oversamples Democrats, so if anything, the vote is more lopsided against the measure.

Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli thinks the measure has little chance of success and that Hickenlooper knows it and is reluctant to lend his name to a proposal that in any case would be only a temporary fix to the state’s beleaguered budget.

‘If there was a miracle and it passed, he (Hickenlooper) would be smiling,’ Ciruli said, ‘but he just does not want to put his capital and credibility behind something when he promised not to support a tax increase but, very importantly, that he thinks is inadequate and will tie his hands in the future.’”

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Obama Slips – Electoral Map Contracts in West

The economy and missteps have President Barack Obama in a serious slide as he approaches the one-year mark to his re-election.  Presidents can expect to be re-elected, especially if they have no primaries, great fundraising, a strong organization and a good campaign style.  Obama has them all.  But, of the three presidents who lost re-elections beginning with Gerald Ford, Obama’s late August approval number (40%) is lower (only Jimmy Carter was lower at 36%) and the current unemployment rate higher (9.1%) (accept Reagan who won by a landslide).

Another Obama advantage was his wide base of electoral support in 2008.  Obama won 365 electoral votes (need 270 to win).  Six western states were in Obama’s camp and six went for John McCain.

Obama carried Colorado in the center right as defined by the number of times a Democratic presidential candidate has carried the state since the 1992 Clinton election.  The range runs from far right states, like Idaho and Wyoming, through to the far left states of California, Oregon and Washington.

The Obama electoral map has contracted since earlier this year when there was some speculation the Chicago organization would go after Arizona and Montana.  As of today, holding Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico will define the campaign’s outer boundaries and likely be major fights.

See articles:

Monday, September 19, 2011

Obama Out of Alignment With Electorate

Although there are numerous reasons offered by pundits for President Obama’s low 40 percent approval, the strongest correlation is between the onslaught of legislation beginning in February 2009 and the first clear signs of approval rates dropping in June, five months later.

Liberals argue any reason but the former Speaker Nancy Pelosi-driven legislative push.  Although, some have argued that Obama focusing on the legislative struggle was at best distraction, and at worst highlighted conflict and the President’s partisan position.  But, one piece of data points strongly to the shift in Obama’s ideology image to the left as a major driver in his approval decline.  Voters who believed Obama was a moderate liberal were unhappily surprised to witness the aggressive government program.  He became a big government, big-spending liberal as the stimulus, financial regulation, cap and trade, and health care bills solidified in their minds.  His liberal pro-government image is now set.  Ironically, liberals are increasingly unhappy with him because he hasn’t promoted even more government spending and interventions.

The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News and Washington Post/ABC News polls confirm that while the public remains more conservative than liberal, Obama is seen as more liberal than conservative.

Friday, September 16, 2011

DU’s Future Study Sees Dire Future Without More Tax Revenue

Not surprising, the latest study from the Denver University Center for Colorado’s Economic Future states a tax increases equal to $3.5 billion in new revenue is necessary by 2025, or in the next 14 years, to keep government services at current levels. But, as the recent Washington D.C. debt ceiling confrontation demonstrated, raising taxes without a serious discussion of the size of government, and in the case of Colorado, what the state should and should not fund, is likely to lead only to more partisan conflict and gridlock.

And to further complicate the discussion, a court ruling on equitable K-12 school funding is eminent (Lobato case), and combines with a growing sense the dominant government public school system is unaffordable and inefficient with mixed outcomes.

The national and economic slowdown and financial deleveraging means all aspects of the economy, including government and its revenue and expenditure, must be downsized in light of the “new normal.”

Although Colorado’s liberal think tanks warn of crises without new revenue, other leaders and many voters believe more government revenue is unjustified until there is across-the-board rethinking of the size and mission of government.

This debate may offer some support for the Bright Future education tax increase on the November ballot, but given the economy and voters’ ambivalent mood, it’s already engendered partisan ranker and the Hickenlooper administration’s and the business community’s low-profile.

See articles:
Denver Post: Study says Colorado budget outlook worse than thought and cutting alone won’t fix it
The Bell Policy Center: It’s time to talk about raising taxes
Washington Times: A lonely Colo. legislator crusades to raise taxes

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Romney or Perry in Colorado

From the day Governor Rick Perry announced, he has been the frontrunner for the Republican nomination.  At the start of the post-Labor Day 2012 campaign season and sprint to the February 6 Iowa caucus, new polls have him with a 15-point lead over Mitt Romney.

The March 6 Colorado caucus should be favorable territory for Romney.  He won it soundly against John McCain in 2008 and has the bulk of the party establishment behind him now.

The earliest published Colorado poll (August 7, PPP Democratic robo poll) showed Romney with a higher favorability rating than Perry, largely due to being better known.

The poll was among all voters.  The entire Republican field lost to Obama at that point by 7 to 16 points, with Romney running closest.

The same poll among registered Republicans had Perry and Romney tied at 20 percent each when Sarah Palin was included, and Romney at 22 percent and Perry 21 percent when she was excluded.

Perry’s Colorado problem at that point is that the Tea Party and other movement conservatives were divided between Perry, Michele Bachmann (15%), Herman Cain (5%) and Newt Gingrich (9%), with Ron Paul receiving his regular libertarian vote (7%).

Although a new Colorado poll has not been published, new national polls show Perry has consolidated much of the conservative vote and has become their first choice.

In this new Wall Street Journal/NBC News survey (August 27), President Obama was basically tied with Romney (46% Obama to 45% Romney) and led Perry by 5 points (47% Obama to 42% Perry).

The Republican Washington establishment feels Romney is the safer candidate.  They believe Perry will lose votes, especially independents and weak Democrats, because his message and image are too focused on the base of the party and not swing voters.  They fear he will become the issue not the President, and that he’s too “Buck”; that is, like Colorado senatorial candidate Ken Buck, he’s prone to verbal gaffs and will be easy to attack.

A series of debates will test those propositions.  But, at the moment, Perry’s base is carrying the day in the Republican Party, and Obama is in such trouble, even a less ideal candidate appears that he could win.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

9/11 Anniversary and the New National Security State

For most of the Cold War and through the fall of the Soviet Union, America was concerned about the growth of a national security state needed to deter Soviet aggression and fight wars on the edges of that confrontation.

When the cost and tension of the obligations got high enough, such as during the Vietnam conflict, the dominant viewpoint became America should not and cannot afford to be the world’s policeman.

But today, we have become the world’s policeman, not just for state-sponsored threats, for which we man aircraft carriers, such as the John C. Stennis, but for non-state terrorist aggression for which we maintain thousands of super trained counter-terrorism troops armed with drones.

Both the military and CIA now have significant forces and weapon systems under their control for the purpose of hunting down and killing individuals in battle zones, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in a dozen or more countries that are considered terrorist havens, such as Pakistan, Yemen and Syria.

Although the current budget crisis will reduce even Pentagon budgets, the likelihood the scope of the new mission will be reduced is unlikely unless we are truly broke or if the trade-off is one-for-one reductions in social security payments.

The American people really haven’t weighed in, although the general sense is both parties have major, if not majority, views that America should reduce its foreign operations footprint, now expressed by politicians as wanting to avoid nation-building.

A few facts about American foreign policy and public opinion today: Obama does much better in his foreign policy votes than domestic or economic policy. Nearly two-thirds (62%) approve of his performance in fighting terrorism (barely one-third approve of his job on the economy).

The latest Gallup poll indicates Americans feel both less threatened by a likely terrorist act (they are only 38% “very” or “somewhat” likely to believe terrorist acts in near future on U.S. soil), but also less confident the government could actually stop a future act (only 22% have “great deal of confidence”).

And finally, Americans are skeptical that all the effort and money is winning the war against terrorism. The largest percentage (46%) believe neither side is winning the war; i.e., terrorists vs. the U.S. and its allies.

See articles:
Washington Post: National security emerges as Obama strong point
Gallup Poll: Tens years in, many doubt U.S. is winning war on terrorism

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Denver Labor Leaders Propose More City Unions – Bad Timing

Denver’s labor bosses have decided 2012 is the year to ask voters to step up unionization in the city. Their timing appears as bad as the idea.

• What part of “no” have labor leaders not heard? Twice in recent years, Denver voters have rejected expanding unions to more Denver city workers. The union bosses must believe that winning control of a majority of the Denver City Council, which they did in the recent election (often done in low-profile, low turnout, multi-candidate council races), will be the same as selling the broader Denver electorate on their incorporation of the city’s workforce. Big difference.

• Unions, especially government unions, are increasingly on the defensive. As the Wisconsin battle highlighted, unionized government workers’ generous health, pension and secure salaries have convinced many voters that it’s time to limit government employee perks, protective work rules and collective bargaining power.

• Denver, like many urban cities, has a major structural deficit, mostly reflecting salary commitments for unionized public safety officers and generous career service payouts.

• Denver is especially struggling with a high jobless rate. New job producing businesses usually believe aggressive municipal unionization will lead to higher taxes, more regulation and a good reason to not move in. Denver, in particular, is in a fierce competition with suburbs that have far lower levels of unionization.

• Of course, there will be a high voter turnout, most likely supporting President Obama. And, Democrats are more sympathetic toward unions than other voters. Still, this remains an uphill battle.

• And, of course, it appears that 2012 may be even less robust economically than this year, providing voters even more reason to limit raising the cost of government.

The most recent Gallup poll shows that 55 percent of Americans believe unions will be weaker in the future – a ten year high. Even a plurality of Democrats believes they will be weaker (46% Democrat, 58% Republican, 57% independent). In fact, a plurality of voters would like to see unions weaker (42%) versus only 30 percent who felt they should have more influence.

See also Denver Post article: Teamsters woo Denver city workers in push for collective bargaining

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Arizona Primary Stays Put

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer decided against causing a frontloading free-for-all in the 2012 presidential primary season by moving up before their current February 28 date (January 31).  With the exception of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, no states are to start formal procedures before March 6.  But, February 28 is less a problem since South Carolina, which is scheduled on that date, could just move up a few days and not start pushing events into December.

If no other states jump the gun, and several are still considering it, the opening nominating events are set and start with the Iowa caucus on February 6.  Colorado is on Super Tuesday, March 6.  It is likely the Republican nomination will still be at least a two-person contest on March 6.

There is a considerable lack of coherence and responsibility to the current calendar.  Others states, along with Arizona, considering going before March 6 are Florida (January 31) and Michigan (February 28).  If states have official events before March 6, they lose half their delegate vote at the convention.  They could stage debates or non-binding events to gain attention.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Auditor Gallagher Seems Fired Up

Usually low-profile, Dennis Gallagher has been in the news lately with lots of opinions, if not much authority.

He took after the Denver Public Library proposal for a district, usually an organization he supports (note: we have been a supporter of the Denver Public Library proposal for secure funding and more independence for years), and in a very angry press release, Gallagher said the Stock Show would not move “on my watch.”

He’s right on the Stock Show; it’s politically dead on arrival. In fact, it’s been so misplayed no Aurora deal may be possible. But, Dennis is a very political guy. Is the new fired up Gallagher a product of his view the transition to a new mayor and a new city council has created a cease in civic authority that a political entrepreneur, like Gallagher, can come to dominate or at least have some fun shaking up? Also, Dennis was not in the Hancock group, so maybe he’s organizing his version of the loyal opposition.

Watch Dennis, he may be Denver’s most savvy politician.

See Denver Post blog:  Denver Auditor Dennis Gallagher strongly opposes move of National Western Stock Show to Aurora