Sunday, February 08, 2009

the stimulus plan, republicans, and the obama presidency

Very good op-ed by Frank Rich today on the dangers facing Obama as a result of the stimulus and bail-out plans. His basic point is that the Administration has underestimated the potential populist backlash as a result of its symbolic (the Geithner and Daschle tax scandals) and substantive (the use of bail-out funds) insensitivity to distributional issues. According to Rich, Obama believes that he will get a pass on this issue because of his overall progressive inclinations, but may not succeed in doing so.

I agree with Rich but would take it a good bit further. I think Obama has basically been taken for a ride by congressional Democrats and associated lobbyists in supporting a bill which has relatively little in the way of real stimulus and a great deal in terms of liberal programs that the Democrats would have supported regardless of economic circumstances. The odd mix of partisan and nonpartisan rhetoric--Obama continues to court Senate Republicans while his supporters launch increasingly shrill attacks on the "obstructionist," backward-looking, they-just-don't-get-it Republicans--contributes further to this impression. It is as if the Democrats themselves sense that they are walking off a cliff, and are angry and frustrated that everyone doesn't want to go with them.

I want very much to like Obama. He's smart, hard-working, has a great public image, and is more intellectually honest than his predecessors. (You've got to admire any President who admits that he took every drug he could get a hold of, and would have taken more except he was scared to.) But his Presidency is taking on a disturbing air of entitlement, as if his positions (which frequently change) are so intuitive that only a fool could disagree with them, his advisors so pure that they need not comply with ordinary ethical rules. Like Bush before him, he is trying to leverage a huge change in policy on what remains, in historic terms, a relatively modest and conditional election victory. One newspaper this week ran a picture of Obama smiling at a portrait of Lincoln while a portrait of Lyndon Johnson tried to get his attention from behind. They were talking about Afghanistan, but there was a broader point to be made, as well.


At 4:30 PM, Anonymous said...

I do not understand why people are having diffculty understanding. The number of unemployed people (11.6 million) and the unemployment rate (7.6 percent) rose in January. Over the past 12 months, the number of unemployed persons has increased by 4.1 million. The Department of Labor reported today that nonfarm payroll employment fell sharply in January (-598,000) and the unemployment rate rose from 7.2 to 7.6 percent. Payroll employment has declined by 3.6 million since the start of the recession in December 2007, .... most of this mess happening only in past three months! And some wonder Obama is pushing so hard for a stimulus package. Is the Herbert Hoover approach, do nothing, all we need, leading us to a twelve year depression ??


Post a Comment

<< Home