Archive for the ‘Economics’ Category

DEBATES CENTRAL TO 1976 CAMPAIGN

Thursday, February 28th, 2019

By Barry Jagoda

In the election year of 1976, presidential candidates Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford agreed to a historic resumption of presidential campaign debates, which had not been held since the famous contests between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy in 1960.

The leading academic authority on presiden
tial debates, Professor Sidney Kraus of Cleveland State University, wrote, “Just as the Kennedy-Nixon confrontations were credited with tipping the balance in favor of the Democratic challenger, the Carter- Ford debates were instrumental in securing Carter’s slim margin of victory” 16 years later.

“The debates were a central element in the 1976 election,” Carter told Kraus. “As perhaps nothing else could have, they provided an opportunity for the American people to weigh the merits of the candidates. President Ford had come to office only two years before, without
a chance to define his views in a national campaign.  I had never held national office and was relatively unknown.”

Ford told an audience at the University of Michigan, “I think the fact that we did debate … makes a strong case for their being held in the future.” And so they have been, with faceoffs held every four years, down to the present.

Inside the Carter-Mondale campaign we saw debates not only as an important chance for our challenger to be present on the same stage with the incumbent, but also as a good opportunity to show the American people the lightning mind of Jimmy 
Carter. Though there was 
the normal apprehension
about such highly focused
 events, the Carter campaign
 was prepared to win, with the
normal confidence we all had in Carter’s
ability to prevail in such a contest. The chance to get a level playing field with President Ford was welcome.

The debate’s sponsor, the League of Women Voters, had chosen various sites around the country at locations with some historic importance. Philadelphia had been a natural choice for the Bicentennial year. San Francisco, site of the signing of the United Nations charter, was selected for the second debate because the subject was to be foreign policy. Two other venues turned up that were just right for the vice presidential debate and for the final presi- dential encounter: The Alley Theater in Houston and Phi Beta Kappa Hall on the campus of the College of William and Mary, respectively.

Our entire campaign staff, led by Hamilton Jordan, went into preparation mode. Briefing materials were overseen and provided by Carter’s principal policy advisor, Stuart Eizenstat, with input from many sources. Once the “briefing books” had been prepared, candidate Carter took possession of them for exhaustive study. Normal campaign events were put on hold for several days prior to each encounter, giving our candidate plenty of time to review the great issues of the day.

Staff members, led by Jody Powell, turned to logis- tics. In addition to Powell, Carter’s debate negotiators included media advisor Gerald Rafshoon and television advisor Barry Jagoda, author of this article. As we met with a team from the Ford campaign, a principal issue for us was to ensure that the two debaters would appear on stage equally—no presidential seal for Ford, no television coverage showing a 6-foot-tall Ford looming over our 5-9 candidate, and no questioners who might show favoritism. In a series of pre-debate encounters, representatives of the two candidates were able to work out such issues.

In the first debate, held on Sept. 23 at the Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia and moderated by the distin- guished NBC News broadcaster Edwin Newman, some will remember a 27-minute delay when the audio on the network (pool) broadcast went silent, for largely technicalreasons. Just as Jerry Rafshoon got ready to go on stage to brief Carter, the sound came back.

The second debate, moderated in San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts Theater on Oct. 6 by NPR’s Pauline Frederick, would be remembered for President Ford’s “gaffe.” Answering a question from Max Frankel of the New York Times, Ford asserted, “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.” Responding vigorously, Carter said, “I would like to see Mr. Ford convince Polish- Americans and Czech-Americans and Hungarian-Americans that those countries do not live under the domination and supervision of the Soviet Union behind the Iron Curtain.” Ford’s comment and Carter’s rebuke overwhelmed anything else from the second debate and gave almost
 all fair observers the opportunity to say that Ford was the loser in the encounter. More than 70 million viewers had tuned in, and a few days later President Ford said
he had made a mistake in his characterization of the Soviets and Eastern Europe.

Just over a week later, on Oct. 15, Sen. Walter Mondale faced off against Sen. Robert Dole in the first-ever vice presidential debate, held on the stage of Houston’s Alley Theater. Post-debate polls indicated that partisans of each ticket would claim victory in the contest. Dole had been known as a “hatchet man,” and Mondale had a reputation as a strong-minded, ethical, even-handed political figure.

An estimated 45 million viewed the Mondale-Dole debate. Then, as now, we in the Carter-Mondale campaign camp were certain that Sen. Mondale had well advanced chances for our ticket.

Barbara Walters moderated the final debate, Oct. 22 at the College
of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. The questioners were syndi- cated columnist Joseph Kraft, Washington Post editorial writer Robert Maynard, and Los Angeles Times Washington bureau chief Jack Nelson. Televised in 113 nations around the globe, it reached another estimated 70 million Americans.
With the Nov. 2 Election Day then only 11 days away, the race had tightened. President Ford closed by asking the electorate to say, “Jerry Ford, you’ve done a good job, keep on doing it.” Gov. Carter, in his closing remarks, said, “Mr. Ford is a good and decent man, but he’s beenin office now more than 800 days, almost as long as John Kennedy was in office. I’d like to ask the American people what’s been accomplished? A lot remains to be done.”

The rest, as is said, belongs to history.

About the author: Barry Jagoda was Jimmy Carter’s television advisor during the 1976 campaign and special assistant to the president for media and public affairs in the White House. Earlier he had been an award-winning writer and producer at NBC News and CBS News. Later he was a high technology media executive and recently retired as director of communications at the University of California, San Diego. With his wife, Karen, Jagoda resides in La Jolla, California.

MODERATION IN PURSUIT OF VIRTUE IS NO VICE

Monday, April 4th, 2016

By Barry Jagoda

As an open society the United States is mixed economically, culturally, socially and with regard to belief. With no fixed agreement on the very greatest issues of human exchange it becomes crucial for government, and for a responsible public, to be moderate so no particular segment of society feels entirely excluded from the process.

Generally American politics reflects this mixture of values but in contested elections, on the left and on the right, one can see deviation, often leading to subordination of a party or candidate who occupies one extreme or another. These extremes show up in other elements of our life but political conflict gets more attention and we are currently undergoing a historic polarization. These gulfs can be seen throughout our culture.

But in 2016, particularly in the Republican presidential nominating process, all of the candidates—17 in total at one time—have run to the right of center. And, as the process winds down, the leading two candidates are far to the right or leaning in that direction. The Democrats have seemed more moderate but from the perspective of the GOP, their more liberal opponents must seem just as deviant.

Republican candidates for public office have tended to find corners of darkness for their anti-government message while Democrats have bounced from calls for a remaking of political society to underscoring the need for more balance.

Passion is a great driver in public life but it can easily cause proponents of one perspective to alienate their fellow citizens. It was this very danger that gave the lie to the famous comment from a right-of-center Presidential candidate, Barry Goldwater, when he said, “Extremism in pursuit of virtue is no vice.” But whose “virtue,” what “extremism” and what sort of “vice?”

Questions such as these, with a variety of answers depending on initial assumptions, lead to bad public policy. The answers—for a healthy society—require moderation.

This is why the economy works best when government is joined with private sector entities to accomplish projects when possible. Mixing funding from public sources—such as for artists, scientists, public broadcasting—with creative forces from the private economy becomes crucial for start-up projects. And with Constitutional requirements for freedom of religion the main role of the public sector is to shield these organizations from restrictions.

Perhaps in no other system does the collective power of government—at local, state and federal levels—come to play a supporting role providing a social safety net. Mixing good jobs with poverty reduction, and underpinning minimum housing, food and clothing, provides a huge role for government but as a supplement to the disorganized private work forces.

Ironically it is with institutions of religion that one can best see how a mixed system works. Because of the very great diversity in religious belief—and because there must be an open platform for each of these traditions—here the wider public sector simply plays an enabling role. In other cultures, where the religion is proscribed and imposed, clashes of values are much more likely. The American system, however, allows for a variety of belief and even protects the 20 percent of citizens who profess no supernatural values.

But American history, through 250 years has seen perpetual conflict between those who had acquired wealth or substantial economic assets and others who have fought for a larger share for those outside the financial circle of influence. With the “establishment” in perpetual fights with the underclasses, with leaders in the various religious sects on the defensive against those who question faith, and related arguments between the “haves” and “have nots,” society has been in turmoil for most of its modern history.

The story becomes quite murky when candidates for public office take on a populist tenor thereby fooling segments of the population who feel left out by government. This is a particular problem in primary voting for national office when candidates seem willing to say anything or do anything to attract their base of voters, often found in extreme pockets at the left or at the right.

It is for this reason that political scientists barely joke when they say “There are two positions in American politics: The moderate position and the wrong position!”

Barry Jagoda is a San Diego-based journalist and international consultant. He was an award-winning writer and producer at NBC News and CBS News, and a founding contributing editor of the highly regarded Texas Monthly magazine.

More Federal Spending Can Cure U.S. Economic Woes

Sunday, October 25th, 2015

Journal Opinion for October 25, 2015

By Barry Jagoda and Richard Cohen

Republican conservatives continue to fume over the probability that Congress will approve another increase in the nation’s debt limit by the deadline of Nov. 3. And the GOP candidates for President continue their focus on less government, all arguing for big cuts in federal spending. But this represents a complete misunderstanding of macroeconomics.

In all of modern history the most effective tool for repairing a national economy has been more targeted government spending. Central government spending is also the best way to reduce the national debt because current and future public investments will rapidly be paid back through the natural increase in tax revenues from a newly strong economy.

Many economists are attracted to the idea of increasing federal spending for worthwhile projects, especially when a nation’s economy is in a slump. The right kind of federal spending not only can pump needed fuel into the economy but will result in long-term benefits to society, such as new and improved roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure.

The current national challenge is to get conservative political leaders to understand this counter-intuitive approach. Probably the best testimony that deficit spending works is that the economy is finally picking up—haltingly, but steadily. Reducing government spending now will short-circuit the recovery. President Obama’s just released budget does call for more federal stimulus but not enough.

The theoretical basis for this strengthening comes from the work of the British economist John Maynard Keynes whose focus is on “aggregate demand,” depending not only on the private sector but also on government to build up the economy. “Demand”can be controlled by federal spending when private enterprise lags.

According to Keynes, within a short time, public and private economic activity will reward a country many times over and will automatically increase tax collections and thereby rather quickly begin to reduce the federal debt.

Why is federal deficit spending seen as such a taboo? Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, a leading Keynesian, says, “Fiscal fear mongering is a major industry inside the Beltway, especially among those looking for excuses to dismantle Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. People whose careers are heavily invested in the deficit-scold industry don’t want to let evidence undermine their scare tactics.”

In his first term President Obama, very much aware of the power of Keynesian theory, asked his economic team for a federal “stimulus” plan. His advisors argued among themselves and, with an eye out over what was thought to be concerns of the electorate, came up with federal spending that was later seen as about half of the amount necessary to get the economy rolling in a fundamental way. This mini-Keynesian contribution made a dent in the weak economy but not nearly enough was spent to reach the level of demand required. Now there is another chance.

The basic American economic problem is a lack of demand. American consumers and businesses aren’t spending enough, and efforts to get them to open their wallets have gone nowhere. The solution: The federal government needs to step in and spend. A lot. On debt relief for struggling homeowners; on infrastructure projects; on aid to states and localities; on safety-net programs. Call it “stimulus” if you like. Call it Keynesian economics. Whatever you call it, it worked in the late nineteen-thirties and forties, when the U.S. government started shelling out on the military in the build-up to World War II, bringing an abrupt end to years of economic misery and laying the foundation for decades of prosperity.

Conventional wisdom in Washington has been for “austerity” — throttle back on government spending, tackle the budget deficit now — as the way to get the economy back on track. Not only is this wrong, it’s making a bad situation even worse. Krugman writes: “Now is the time for the government to spend more, not less, until the private sector is ready to carry the economy forward again.”

Republicans fear government debt almost as though the overages were similar to going into household debt. Students in first year economics are taught that this is the “fallacy of composition,” mistaking what might be consequential for a home budget or even planning in business with the opportunities and issues for a national budget and management plan. Sometimes it seems that none of the conservatives in Congress found time for basic economic study, or they have forgotten the fundamental teaching. 2015-2016 is a very good time to test Keynes whose theories should get America further back on the right economic track.

Richard Cohen is a business executive and entrepreneur. Barry Jagoda is a San Diego-based journalist and international consultant.