Weekly Roundup 2/21/2012

Which was the most important U.S. election ever?
David R. Mayhew, The Washington Post, Feb. 19, 2012

Synopsis: With some Republican candidates using superlatives to describe the 2012 election (“most important . . . in my lifetime,” Gingrich says), the well-known Yale political scientist David Mayhew suggests some criteria for assessing the importance of a presidential contest. Among the questions he thinks to be considered: How important was the election considered at the time? Was the election associated with a major change in voter coalitions? What if the other candidate had won? Did the campaign itself have an independent impact apart from the outcome? Did the election set an important national precedent? On these criteria, Mayhew counts 1860 and 1932 as the nation’s most important presidential elections; recent elections don’t rank very high.

Takeaway: As for 2012, Mayhew takes a wait-and-see attitude: “So far in this campaign, we don’t seem to have witnessed big, energizing events, a new mood that invests the public in the outcome or signs of a clear voter mandate.” But he does not count that as a problem: “In most elections, deft management of the economy and smart, prudent foreign policy are enough to ask for.”

For CQ Researcher coverage, see Bob Benenson, “Presidential Election,” Feb. 3, 2012.

--Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor


The Volcker Rule and the Costs of Good Intentions
Andrew Ross Sorkin, The New York Times blogs, DealB%k, Feb. 13, 2012

The Volcker Rule and Wall Street's Pliant Media Plant
Raymond J. Learsy, The Huffington Post, Feb. 15, 2012

Synopsis: The so-called Volcker Rule in the Dodd-Frank financial-markets bill -- which forbids banks from speculating with their own money, rather than only with clients' funds at their behest -- will cost Wall-Street jobs and raise costs for bank customers, a troubling downside, writes New York Times financial-columnist Sorkin. But by stressing bankers' complaints about the rule, which former Federal Reserve chair Paul Volcker proposed to limit over-risky financial-industry behavior, Sorkin shows his hand as a reporter who's too much a captive of the businesses he covers, writes former commodities trader Learsy.

Takeaway: Sorkin "cites that paragon of banking virtue..., Jamie Dimon, chairman of JPMorgan Chase...., the very epitome of the type of banker the Volcker rule is meant to protect us, the public, from," noted Learsy.

For more, see Kenneth Jost's Jan. 20 report on “Financial Misconduct” and his May 9, 2008, report, “Financial Crisis,” and my July 30, 2010, report, “Financial Industry Overhaul.”

--Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer