There is no question a big reason why the MSM informs so little is that senseless theories and rumors continue to be pushed even after being thoroughly refuted or debunked.  So often proving a point is, well, besides the point.  Confusing the issue and deflecting attention from real answers is the goal.

Pundits and think-tank ‘experts’ incur no cost whatsoever for doing this (professional, legal, reputational, etc.) since most are never held accountable for their past analyses or predictions, so it’s a cheap trick to further their backers’ agendas.

There are plenty of examples, but a particularly onerous one is the ‘Fannie and Freddie created the crisis by mandating minority loans’ meme.  It’s a favorite of Neil Cavuto over at News Corporation.

So I am ecstatic at this little experiment Barry Ritholtz is proposing: He will debate anyone on the topic, and bet $100,000 of his own money on it.  Let’s see how many idiots are willing to put up, and how many will finally shut up.

Republicans are hammering Obama because the unemployment rate is about to go over 10% (Gingrich says the stress tests “have already failed” because they were based on a lower number), and many Democrats in Congress are getting anxious about a tough reelection if the numbers don’t get better soon (and therefore are less willing to stick their necks out for the president).

But my money is on much better numbers turning out for August, maybe even coming back under 9%.  Here’s why:

  • Summer Jobs that typically are filled by high school students this year are going to be picked up by displaced workers, even though overqualified.  Teenagers unable to find jobs will have less money for games, clothes and to save for the Fall, but nevertheless they will not be claiming unemployment benefits.
  • Stimulus package: Construction projects will finally start coming online.  Not the big rail and infrastructure projects to be sure, but definitely the smaller ones, such low-income housing weatherization and city roads.  Also tax incentives for energy efficient windows and solar energy have kicked in, and these retail type contracts are ramping up as banks start lending again and contractors start marketing them aggressively.  Then there is the undocumented worker factor: A sizable portion of construction work used to be done by illegal immigrants (20% ??), especially with small 5-10 person contractors.  Many of these workers have gone back to their homelands, so for every 9 legal construction workers that were laid off, about 10 will now be hired back for a comparable project.
  • College grads: More than usual they will go into volunteer work (unpaid or sponsored by the expanded Americorps), delay graduation, pursue graduate degrees, travel for a wile if they have the resources, or stay with their parents (without collect unemployment).
  • Chinese stimulus: We’ll start feeling the effect of Chinese projects on our durable orders numbers.

I am a big fan of Lawrence Lessig’s campaign finance reform push.  However  I am highly skeptical that this time is any different and anything substantial can be accomplished that is any better than the loophole-filled reforms of the past as long as the congress has to vote on it.

But I wonder, what if Lessig directed his efforts on a state-by-state basis?  And what if he targetted how funds are used rather than how they are obtained?

It would be a lot simpler and cheaper if we focused on more progressive states (where support is high to begin with), and smaller states (which have smaller population with small and cheap media markets) first, and yet the returns for the senate would be the same (same two senators in Rhode Island as in California).

I know federal elections are constitutionally under the purview of the federal law, but as I understand it, the states have a lot of leeway in actual implementation, such as what IDs to require, and how late to keep precincts open, vote by mail, etc.

So are states also not able to establish rules for campaign advertising?  Such as limiting number of commercials, requiring TV stations to carry some free ads or X number of debates or free air time to carry a low-production-cost speech.  Of course this could only be done on local media, and not on national TV so as not to infring on interstate commerce.  The same thing could be done for newspaper ads, radio, mailers, etc.

My point is that limiting the many sources of contributions is like trying to patch a ship with a thousand leaks.  But limiting what they can do with the money is magnitudes easier because there’s only a handful of high-profile and highly visible outlets to regulate.

Then if we managed to get 16 small states on board, that’s one third of the senate that would not need to raise millions for reelection, and therefore one third of the senate that would be inherently supportive of that same reform but at the national level.  That’s a congress we can work with.