Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Obama and Julia

Last week the Obama campaign released "The life of Julia" contrasting the effects of an Obama 2nd term and a Romney presidency on milestones of a woman's life from the age of 3 through to retirement at age 67. The object of this exercise is to show how Julia is better off with an Obama administration.

I considered doing a parody of Julia but that has already been done to death. So, I will limit myself to looking at the meaning of this whole campaign gimmick.

First, it is dishonest on many levels. There is no way that today's three-year-old will continue through the next 64 years unaffected by any presidents except for Obama or Romney. Julia is a composite which is just as well. Otherwise the slideshow is missing some elements. Young Julia is enrolled in Head Start which is reserved for the poor. When Julia retires the text says that she would have had a 40% cut in Social Security under Romney. There are multiple assumptions here. There was a proposal by two Congressional Republicans to do means testing of Social Security as a way of saving it. That is the only plan on the table that would cut her Social Security benefits by that much. In order to be affected by that, Julia would have had to have done very well for herself so there should have been a couple of slides about her paying higher taxes under Obama than under Romney.

Most of the assumptions about what Romney would do are based on questionable assumptions. Romney is treated as a rubber stamp for an Republican proposals in the last few years (this is likely to be a major theme of the overall Obama campaign so Julia is not an aberration). Further, proposed cuts are treated as across the board. In the case of student loan rates, the Obama campaign ignored what Romney said (that he wants the rate cut extended) and projects that it the rate would rise because it is not specifically mentioned in the Ryan budget.

There is another point where Julia misquotes what happened. The Romney campaign was asked if the Governor would have signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act. His staff said that they would have to ask Romney before answering and the following day said that he would have signed it. According to Julia, Romney refused to answer if he would sign it.

The only campaign pledge that Julia quotes accurately is Romney's promise that he would work to repeal Obamacare (a position shared by a majority of the electorate). The rest is somewhere between inaccurate and outright falsehood.

Since we cannot trust anything that Julia says about Romney, what does it say about Obama?

The most obvious point is that Obama's America is one where a woman requires constant help from the federal government to shield her from the rest of the world including local government (schools). I am sure that this accurately reflects the Obama Administration but I am not so sure about the rest of the country.

A related point is that the Obama Administration is confident in the ability of government programs to accomplish their goals. Head Start and Race to the Top are given three mentions even though outside evaluations of these programs are not so glowing. Numerous studies have shown that the benefits of Head Start fade over time. Most of them vanish by the end of First Grade and students who have been through Head Start are indistinguishable from their peers by the third grade.

Race to the Top encourages new teaching techniques but the program has not existed long enough to judge its effectiveness.

Julia also overstates the effectiveness of Obamacare. One of the milestones is when Julia needs an operation while in college. While it is true that Obamacare allows parents to cover their children up to the age of 26, it is also true that most policies allowed parents to cover their children while in college.

Similar arguments can be made for nearly all of the slides.

The final point about Julia is that it shows just how thin Obama's achievements have been. It mentions three - Obamacare, Race to the Top, and Lilly Ledbetter. These get multiple mentions to fluff them up a bit. The rest consists of "saving" programs from Romney cuts while ignoring that the current rate of spending is unsustainable and something is going to have to be cut. It is a wonder that the creators of Julia didn't include a slide where Julia grows up safe because Obama killed bin Laden, just to throw in a real achievement.

By exaggerating Obama's accomplishments and misrepresenting Romney's positions, Julia shows a remarkable disdain for the voter's intelligence.

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