February 28, 2011

Progressives have a problem

Posted in 2012 Elections, federal budget, Obama administration, role of government, U.S. Economy tagged , , , at 11:20 am by realitytax

We all get that advertising makes an impact, and it follows that our military recruiting benefits from marketing expenditures.  Should voters tell our representatives in Congress to micro-manage ad campaigns for the Defense Department?  In a word, no, but that’s what this hullabaloo is all about.

“There is no argument from Democrats or Republicans that we must reduce our massive debt. But there is fierce discussion and passionate debate concerning how to reduce our deficit.”

The Pragmatic Progressive Forum
28 Feb 2011

If Congress chooses to set limits on what part of the Defense Department budget goes to advertising, including “none,” that’s possibly within their role in tackling the budget deficit. At what level do we want to spend time controlling the specific choices?

According to Wikipedia (see citations below) for the 2010 fiscal year, “the president’s base budget of the Department of Defense rose to $533.8 billion. Adding spending on “overseas contingency operations” brings the sum to $663.8 billion.” Now I know the Pentagon pays more than seems reasonable for hardware, and consulting, and other services, and that a penny saved is a penny earned, but when it comes to advertising it’s also a question of return on investment — and while the roughly $16 million that we’re talking about is a lot of cash, relative to that $600+ billion, folks, it’s chump change: less than 1/100 of 1%

So tell me, how much time is it worth arguing over, relative to the other 99.9975% of the Defense Department budget? All progressives will accomplish, other than distracting from other spending decisions, of course, is alienating NASCAR fans: ultimately that mind-set drives them to think their values are more in line with the Republican party.

Image via Army.mil

With over 15 million viewers a week ago for NASCAR’s Daytona 500, the appeal is undeniable even to folks who can’t imagine why “just watching cars driving in a loop” is entertaining. The biggest companies in the U.S. wanted in; they know the value of having their logo seen by that many fan-eyeballs, associating their brands with the race and drivers tends to make influence purchasing. Would Target®, Burger King®, Sherwin-Williams®, and Budweiser® be there if advertising didn’t matter?

Progressive columnists and pundits need to learn two things, fast, if they want to take advantage of the attention that the struggle in Madison is finally generating in the media. First, diversity is good, even when it comes to what we do for entertainment. Second, avoid falling into traps that emphasize differences. It doesn’t help their causes to focus on stuff that makes middle-class Americans think liberal neighbors and/or Democrats in Congress are somehow less in touch with regular people than the elite GOP strategists and politicians.

Winning elections is about more than just getting people to vote. If the Democrats in Congress get drawn into this argument, and start arguing against an iconic pass-time, in a process where narrow margins determine who holds an office and makes budget choices they’ll be conceding electoral might to their opposition for years to come.

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Wikipedia citations: 

Updated Summary Tables, Budget of the United States Government Fiscal Year 2010 (Table S.12)
http://www.gpoaccess.gov/usbudget/fy09/pdf/budget/defense.pdf

August 2, 2010

Pawlenty knows politics.

Posted in 2012 Elections, GOP, John McCain's campaign, media coverage, taxes tagged , , , , , , , , , at 9:17 am by realitytax

Senator McCain suggests his wife enter a topless contest in Sturgis

Is America ready for a first lady who's recently entered a topless contest?

While it’s arguably inappropriate objectification of his wife to bolster his career when lame-duck MN Governor Pawlenty describes her as his “red-hot smoking wife,” I disagree w/ wonkette’s characterization that it’s “two years early.” If Obama hadn’t started early he probably wouldn’t be President, and remember Senator McCain tried to woo votes from Harley riders by suggesting his wife enter the topless Miss Buffalo Chip contest in Sturgis in 2008.

If voters made their choices rationally the political calculus of candidates and campaigns would be very different. Voters often rationalize when interviewed, but research proves the decisions are more often based on emotion than intellectual evaluation.

Campaigns get longer and more costly all the time because mainstream media producers see candidate spending as helping their own bottom lines. In other words, it’s also arguably a conflict of interest to base so much of the determination of a campaign’s viability on successful fund-raising. True, in many cases advertising is a crucial factor, and we all accept that one of the keys to advertising success is repetition across a wide range of media to generate the maximum number of impressions. Yet wouldn’t it be refreshing for a network or newspaper to cap the amount of political ads they’d take at some reasonable level?

Voters report they’re actually annoyed by the saturation of TV as elections approach; in some cases the result seems to be tuning out altogether. Meanwhile where are the balancing stories about what the candidates have actually accomplished, how a candidate runs an efficient and fiscally restrained campaign focused on issues instead of fund-raising, or which ads are to distract from facts or obscure their votes while echoing slogans and talking points in much the same way Budweiser hammers away with their “King of Beer” message.

Lame-duck MN Governor Pawlenty anxious to try a different job

MN Governor Pawlenty spending most of his time raising money and his visibility

Pawlenty knows “earned” media coverage is less costly than buying ads, and he’s got the recent examples of Palin and Bachmann proving the press loves provocative statements more than substantive discussion. Any “news” outlet is reliant on ad revenues, which are in turn driven by ratings. Look how quickly most mainstream media companies jumped on the Shirley Sherrod story – a hint of controversy and the race for viewers/readers was on without what we used to think of as journalistic integrity, all in pursuit of the mighty dollar. Pawlenty certainly doesn’t want the national press talking to disgruntled Minnesotans or economists about how his “no new taxes” mythology has driven down quality of life and scuttled the state budget.

Look for conflicts of interest in coverage, and follow the money if you want to understand Pawlenty — but don’t underestimate either his political savvy or the impact his “red-hot smoking wife” may have on voters and donors.