Afghanistan, Libya, the killing of Osama bin Laden, raising the debt ceiling and Rep. Anthony Weiner’s Twitter feed can consume news cycle after news cycle and will certainly impact how voters perceive their politics, but the discomfort they feel in their wallets and the outlook for their economic prospects will dictate their votes.
Enter -- from stage right, of course -- Tim Pawlenty. The former Minnesota governor and Republican presidential contender plans to roll out his economic proposals in a speech Tuesday at the University of Chicago.
At its core, Pawlenty's policy is geared toward cutting corporate and individual tax rates to help spark economic growth, similar to what President Ronald Reagan saw in the mid-1980s and what President Bill Clinton saw in the mid-1990s.
“Let’s start with a big, positive goal. Let’s grow the economy by 5 percent, instead of the anemic 2 percent envisioned currently,” Pawlenty plans to say in his speech, according to his campaign.
“Such a national economic growth target will set our sights on a positive future and inspire the actions needed to reach it. By the way, 5 percent growth is not some pie-in-the-sky number. We’ve done it before, and with the right policies, we can do it again,” he says.
Pawlenty's plan, titled “A Better Deal,” also calls for a flatter individual tax system.
“On the individual rates we need a simpler, fairer flatter tax system overall. I propose just two rates: 10 percent and 25 percent. Under my plan, those who currently pay no income tax would stay at a zero rate. After that, the first $50,000 of income -- or $100,000 for married couples -- would be taxed at 10 percent,” he will propose.
“Everything above that would be taxed at 25 percent. That’s it: a one-third cut in the bottom rate to allow younger-, middle- and lower-income families to save and build wealth, and a 28 percent cut in the top rate to spur investment and job creation.”
Pawlenty also took to Tuesday's op-ed page of the Chicago Tribune to put forth some details.
Sure, there's enough criticism of President Obama in the speech to fill up cable TV for hours, but there are also the first specific policy proposals coming from a top tier contender. They will, no doubt, be a point of debate come Monday in New Hampshire when seven Republicans take the stage at St. Anselm College.
Pawlenty will address the economy against the backdrop of some new polling data that demonstrate President Obama’s potential vulnerabilities on the issue.
“59 percent, a new high…disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy, which, in a nutshell, is what the public’s frustration is all about.
“In two equally critical measures, 66 percent say the country’s seriously off on the wrong track and 69 percent describe themselves as dissatisfied or even angry with the way the federal government is working.”
Looking at those numbers, it shouldn’t be all that surprising that the man who coined the famous “It’s the economy, stupid” mantra during Clinton’s successful 1992 presidential campaign would urge President Obama to retool his economic message.
“I think when he talks about the positive news, I actually think it makes people angry. Not only do I not think it is the right thing to do, I think it is counterproductive. It tells people that he doesn’t understand what’s going on in their lives,” James Carville told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“The president needs to go to Camp David and spend a good two days to get the proper economic message because right now they don’t have it,” Carville added.
All of which adds up to awkward timing for this: President Obama is set to lose his chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers this summer.
“Dr. Austan D. Goolsbee, Chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), announced his plans to return to his position as the Robert P. Gwinn Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business," the White House announced Monday night. "He will return to Chicago in time for the upcoming school year. Prior to his time in the Obama Administration, he was a professor at the University of Chicago for fourteen years.”
Many reports indicate that Goolsbee’s tenure at the University of Chicago may have lapsed if he did not return. Goolsbee, who has served as chairman of the CEA since September 2010, is expected to advise the president's re-election campaign while back home in Chicago.
WEINER 'DEEPLY ASHAMED'
From the moment Rep. Weiner admitted “a very deep personal failing” Monday for not only lying about posting a lewd photo of himself on Twitter, but also for engaging in inappropriate online relationships with multiple women, the New York Democrat could probably see the next day's headlines written before his very eyes.
The New York Times: “Tearful Weiner Admits Sending Explicit Picture”
The Washington Post: “Weiner admits tweeting lewd photo of himself”
The New York Post: “Naked Truth”
The New York Daily News: “Yeah, I’m a Schmuck”
The seven-term congressman told a crowded room of reporters at a New York hotel that while he was “deeply ashamed” of his actions and judgment, he would not step down from his House seat.
“I am sorry, and I continue to be, but I don't see anything that I did that violated any rules of the House,” Rep. Weiner said. “I don't see anything that I did that certainly violated my oath of office to uphold the Constitution.”
The veracity of that statement from Rep. Weiner may very well end up being the subject of a formal House investigation. Shortly after he spoke Monday afternoon, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., released a statement calling on the ethics committee “to determine whether any official resources were used or any other violation of House rules occurred.”
Rep. Weiner’s stunning reversal came after the congressman spent the previous week claiming that a sexually suggestive photo sent to a Seattle college student from his Twitter account was the result a prank by a hacker. But the lawmaker’s attempts at damage control were unsuccessful after telling one interviewer that he was unable to say “with certitude” that the image was not of him.
As questions lingered, the cracks in the story became more apparent. His account completely unraveled Monday when conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart posted new pictures of the congressman, bare-chested, which had reportedly been sent to one of the women he had interacted with online.
Rep. Weiner’s decision to remain in office is certain to cause headaches for congressional Democrats, who no doubt would much rather be talking about substantive policy matters and maintaining their offensive against the GOP’s plan to reform Medicare, which helped them win a special election race for a House seat in upstate New York just a few weeks ago.
In the age of Facebook, Twitter and the 24-hour news cycle, that seems like distant history.
2012: BY THE NUMBERS
It looks like Mitt Romney is going to have to wear that front-runner label for a bit longer.
A new ABC News/Washington Poll has the former Massachusetts governor sitting atop the heap of GOP contenders, with 21 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaners favoring him for their party’s nomination.
The next closest competitor is former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, who captures 17 percent. But despite her share of support among Republicans, 64 percent of Americans overall say they definitely will not vote for her for president. That's a new high in ABC News/Washington Post polling and must be part of any consideration Palin conducts about whether to join the fray.
The rest of the Republican field scores in the single digits.
As for general election match-ups with President Obama, only Romney is competitive at this early and largely meaningless moment in the cycle. Among registered voters, Romney edges out Obama 49 percent to 46 percent.
Taking his position both within the Republican nominating contest and in the general election this far out, it wasn't surprising to hear Romney put forth this piece of political strategy Monday night to CNN's Piers Morgan:
“Until Labor Day hits, I’m going to be pretty quiet.”