The Economist’s Unwarranted Crush on Schwarzenegger

I’m an unabashed fan of the Economist— it’s one of only two print publications I regularly read and I listen to the (recently improved) podcasts– I’ll surely join as a “fan” if they ever become a Facebook product (as the New York Times has done). They’ve begun to beef up their coverage of the Presidential election with Democracy in America, a recent audio piece in which Robert Reich and an undecided New Hampshire voter evaluated candidates’ economic plans was particularly good. With that caveat, two aspects of their (with anonymous writers, they’re a they) recent US coverage rankles.

The Lexington column, datelined Nov. 1, praises Gov. Schwarzenegger , bemoaning the fact that his “post-partisanship” approach has failed to catch on nationally four years after bringing his stogies and Hummers to the statehouse. We don’t know who the author is, but I’m guessing she or he does not reside in California.

Mr Schwarzenegger is the Republican Party’s biggest star… nobody else can boast such broad appeal….Mr Schwarzenegger is a natural….[W]hen the governor wants to get something important done, he first agrees a plan with the state legislature—which means, in effect, the Democratic majority. Together, they then ask voters to approve it, along with any necessary new taxes or debt. This is how, last year, the state approved the issuing of a whopping $43 billion in bonds for infrastructure. Although little progress has been made so far on a plan to expand health coverage, that reform will almost certainly follow the same route. This strange hybrid of politics as usual and direct democracy has two advantages. It inoculates bills against future mischievous ballot initiatives, since people are not likely to vote down a measure that they have previously voted for. More important, it neuters California’s troublesome Republicans.

Compare that self-assured (and presumably drive-by) account with this week’s news that California finds itself with another budget crisis. Here is how the the LA Times’ Sacremento bureau framed it. Governor teeters on edge of deficit abyss: He talked about the state living within its means, but nothing changed. Now a crisis threatens.

Experts say the state’s spending habits are no more restrained than they were when Schwarzenegger arrived in Sacramento four years ago. The budget has grown by a staggering 40%. Costly programs have been launched.

And spending has continued to outpace tax receipts year after year — even years when housing and tech booms led to cash windfalls.

Now the governor finds himself in a predicament similar to that of his predecessor, Democrat Gray Davis: staring at a crippling budget shortfall that threatens to overshadow all other business in the Capitol and tarnish his political legacy.

I imagine that the Economist is approaching the New Yorker’s reality in having more readers in California than in its home region. One would hope that as its coverage of the States expands, so will its penchant for accuracy.

My second complaint concerns the 08 Presidential preference poll from YouGov/Polimetrix from last week. It’s customary in these parts to run, if not highlight or explain in depth, margins of error. The magazine mentions a web link with details on the poll, but the link above provides no details about, and no obvious links to background on, the survey.

One thought on “The Economist’s Unwarranted Crush on Schwarzenegger

  1. If you go to http://economist.com/yougov and click “Full poll results for November 5th-6th 2007” you’ll see plenty. For example:

    Sample: 1,000 adult Americans
    Margin of error: +/-4%
    The margin of error measures only sampling variability, and does not adjust for other types of non- sampling error, such as non-response, panel participation, and misreporting.

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