Larry Summers Resigns

Larry Summers, director of President Obama’s National Economic Council, will leave his post by the end of the year, the White House announced.

The move comes in the wake of the departures of other key members of Obama’s economic team, Christina Romer, and Peter Orszag.

Dems Fail to Get Enough Votes to Proceed on DADT/Defense Bill

The Senate on Tuesday afternoon voted against moving forward on the defense authorization bill that included a repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” The vote ended up 56 to 43, but 60 votes were needed to proceed.

The bill also included the DREAM Act, which would grant a path to legal status for illegal immigrants who serve in the military.

All Republicans voted against the bill, and so did Arkansas Democratic Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor.* (see UPDATE)

Democrats will no doubt use the defeat to argue to their base that they are trying to do something on gays in the military and immigration reform, but are being thwarted by Republicans.

Before the vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid addressed Republican obstructionism, saying, “It’s remarkable we have been able to get as much done as we have, given all the roadblocks that have been thrown up.”

UPDATE: All Republicans who voted, voted against the bill, but Sen. Lisa Murkowski didn’t vote. Instead, the 43rd vote against came from Reid himself, which the Washington Independent reports, was to keep his procedural options open. Here’s the full roll call of the vote.

Republican Takes Surprise Lead in WV Senate Race

Though West Virginia voted Republican in recent presidential elections, Democrats have been expected to maintain the Senate seat once held by Robert Byrd ever since the popular Democratic governor, Joe Manchin, announced he would seek the seat.

But now the seat may be back in doubt, with a new poll by Democratic firm Public Policy Polling showing that the unpopularity of national Democrats in the state was weighing on Manchin, and that the Republican John Raese had taken a 46 percent to 43 percent lead, which is within the margin of error. The poll finds that President Obama’s approval rating in the state is a mere 30 percent, with 64 percent disapproving.

PPP notes:

Despite Manchin’s 42% approval rating with Republicans he’s getting only 14% of their votes. And in spite of a +8 approval spread with independents, he trails Raese 56-30 with them. Raese also leads 47-41 with another key group- the Democrats that disapprove of Obama.

The pollster cautions that this result is at odds with most polls showing Manchin ahead, and suggests waiting to see if other polls confirm it.

Rasmussen: Miller Has Double-Digit Lead With Murkowski in the Race

Republican Joe Miller has opened up a commanding lead in the Alaska Senate race, even with defeated Republican Lisa Murkowski joining the contest, according to a new Rasmussen poll.

Some Republicans had feared that Murkowski’s decision to launch a write-in bid would split the GOP vote, paving the way for Democrat Scott McAdams to squeak by with a victory. In fact, the poll suggests that Murkowski is actually taking more votes from the Democrat than she is from Miller.

In the poll released this morning, Miller is the choice of 42 percent of Alaskans polled, Murkowski is at 27 percent, and McAdams is at 25 percent. In a two-way poll taken at the end of August, Miller was at 50 percent and McAdams was at 44 percent.

Rasmussen cautions that polling for a write-in candidate “is always challenging.”

Poll: Majority of Americans Think All Tax Cuts Should Be Extended

Fifty-five percent of Americans say that raising taxes on any Americans would slow the economy, compared to just 40 percent who believe that taxes should be allowed to rise for those earning over $250,000, according to a new CNBC poll.

The poll also found that 90 percent of Americans are concerned about the economy. In particularly bad news for Democrats, asked what would be the most important signal that the economy is “getting back on track,” 65 percent answered not until “there is more hiring and unemployment goes down.” With unemployment expected to remain high, public perception of the economy is unlikely to improve anytime soon.

NBER: Recession Ended in June 2009

The National Bureau of Economic Research, which is tasked with dating business cycles, announced this morning that the recession ended in June 2009, making the 18-month downturn the longest recession since World War II.

NBER noted that, “the committee did not conclude that economic conditions since that month have been favorable or that the economy has returned to operating at normal capacity. Rather, the committee determined only that the recession ended and a recovery began in that month.”

The committee also determined that any future economic downturn would count as a new recession rather than a continuation of the recession that began in December 2007.

Romney Emphasizes Economic Issues in Talk to Values Voters

Mitt Romney focused on economic issues in his address to the Value Voters Summit this morning, part of clear shift in strategy from his last presidential run.

In 2008, Romney heavily courted social conservatives, but the strategy often backfired by drawing attention to his reversals on a number of issues such as abortion. This made him come off inauthentic to many primary voters. In the run up to what is widely believed to be a second presidential run, Romney has placed more emphasis on economic issues, which are not only topical but play into his background as a successful businessman. This shift was apparent earlier this year when I saw him speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference, and it continued today.

Romney opened up his speech to values voters with a harsh critique of President Obama, arguing that the lack of private sector experience among the administration’s advisors had led to economic policies that were an “abject failure.”

The first rule of a turnaround, Romney said, was “Focus, focus, focus.” But instead the Obama administration had pursed liberal policies such as national health care and cap and trade.

“He called it ambitious,” Romney said of Obama’s agenda, “I called it reckless.”

Other than a brief aside about the sanctity of life and marriage, Romney didn’t talk about issues that are traditionally considered social issues. Instead, he framed other issues as being a matter of values.

He outlined Obama’s assault on values, which included: spending and borrowing, redistributing wealth, passing government health care, and trying to end the secret ballot in union elections.

Romney recalled that when he was shopping in Wal-Mart, it hit him that businesses and institutions largely reflect the values of their founders. In the same way, he said, America reflects the love for liberty and pioneer spirit epitomized by our founders. He called these “founding values” that were being threatened by liberals’ lust for government power and attacks on free enterprise.

One gets the sense that Romney understands that he’s unlikely to become the top choice of social conservatives, and is content with the polite but not overwhelmingly supportive reception he gets with values voters. Instead, he’d rather position himself to the broader electorate with a message that fits him better.

At Value Voters Summit, Huck Addresses Daniels “Truce”

In his speech to the Value Voters Summit here in Washington this morning, Mike Huckabee addressed those who say that social issues should be deemphasized while the nation was in the midst of a severe economic crisis.

Though he didn’t mention the name, his remarks were a clear response to a potential presidential rival, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who he has explicitly criticized in the past for calling for a “truce” on social issues.

Huckabee argued that the financial crisis was rooted in a moral crisis, because greed-driven bankers turned Wall Street into a casino, and had taxpayers pick up the tab when they lost their bets.

He also said that our fiscal problems represented a family crisis. As an example, he noted that children from broken homes have a higher probability of ending up in prison, which costs taxpayers more money.

As for the rest of the speech, Huckabee echoed many of the standard conservative criticisms of President Obama, taking aim at the health care law and his handling of the BP oil spill.

The speech also had flashes of Huckabee’s trademark joke-telling style. At one point, he reminded the audience of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s infamous comment that we have to pass the health care bill to find out what’s in it. Huckabee chided that he imagines what that would be like if he applied such a comment to food. “I’m gonna know what I’ve just had for lunch when I passed it,” he said, to audience laughter.

Census Finds More Uninsured in 2009 In Weaker Economy

The number of uninsured rose to 50.7 million in 2009 from 46.3 million in 2008, according to the Census Bureau, as people lost employer-based health insurance in a weak economy. But as with every year, it’s important to dig deeper into the numbers to understand what they actually tell us.

To start with, the Census report itself cautions that “health insurance coverage is underreported…for a variety of reasons.” One reason is that the survey asks respondents whether they were insured in the prior calendar year, but some may respond based on their current insurance status, or say they were uninsured when in actuality they were only without coverage for part of the year while between jobs. The report says the data “more closely approximates the number of people who were uninsured at a specific point in time during the year than the number of people uninsured for the entire year.”

In addition, the report shows that of the 50.7 million uninsured, 9.9 million are not citizens. 

Also, some qualify for existing government programs but have simply not enrolled. And some could conceivably afford coverage, but have chosen not to purchase it — 19.9 million of the uninsured make over $50,000 a year, and 10.6 million make over $75,000. Plus, 20.1 million uninsured are between 18 and 34, and some in this age group may have decided that they simply don’t need insurance because they’re relatively healthy.

What we do get a sense of from these numbers, however, are trends. And this year, the percentage of people covered by employment-based health insurance dropped to 55.8 percent, from 58.5 percent in 2008, making last year the lowest level of employment-based health care since 1987.

The most obvious explanation is that lower employment translated into lower employer-based health care. Liberals, no doubt, would use this as an argument in favor of ObamaCare. But in reality, it’s an argument to move away from an employment-based insurance model and toward a model where individuals purchase their own health insurance and can take it with them from job to job, or maintain it when they lose their jobs. Instead, ObamaCare preserves the link between employment and coverage.