Forget bipartisanship Obama: shoot for the moon: The problem started even before he was inaugurated. Mr Obama was faced with two conflicting objectives. First, try to revive a rapidly sinking economy by crafting a big fiscal stimulus – one that should be “timely, targeted and temporary” in the words of Lawrence Summers, Mr Obama’s chief economic adviser. Second, try to win over as many Republican votes as possible. In the event, Mr Obama got the worst of both worlds – a poorly designed stimulus that won only three (out of 41) Republican votes in the Senate. The price of those three was high. In order to appeal to the Republicans, a third of the “stimulus” was frittered away in minute tax cuts that most families either saved or used to help reduce their household debts. Designed to stimulate the economy and Republican support, the tax cut achieved neither. Second, its overall size was cut from $1,200bn to about $800bn – considerably lower than most economists believed was necessary to kick-start the economy. In order to win over Susan Collins, a Republican senator from Maine, the Democrats removed $83bn of short-term spending from the bill at the cost of 400,000 jobs....
A year later, little has changed. This week pundits got excited about a $15bn jobs promotion bill that was enacted in the Senate. The excitement was confined to political observers, who noted that the bill passed with the support of 13 opposition votes, including that of Scott Brown, the Republican who took the late Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat in last month’s Massachusetts election. It was celebrated as a victory for bipartisanship. What it did not herald was much of a victory for jobs. Economists confined their observations to the fact that the bill, which offers employers a one-year holiday on the 6.2 per cent payroll tax they pay if they hire someone who has been out of work for more than two months, was unlikely to make a notable dent in unemployment. Businesses are suffering from a lack of demand not supply....
Finally, Mr Obama’s bipartisan instincts arguably contributed to the parlous state of healthcare reform today. The most serious blow to the bill came last summer when Mr Obama allowed a small group of centrist Democratic and Republican senators to negotiate on a compromise. The exercise robbed Mr Obama of three valuable months and ceded the initiative to people who had no prior record of fighting for healthcare reform. It also created the space for the demagogic “townhall” meetings in which the bill was depicted as a Trojan horse for socialism, euthanasia and an all-seeing federal bureaucracy. The net result? No Republican votes....
American presidents with the greatest record of bipartisan legislative achievement, notably Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan, got their way by intimidating opponents, not by splitting the difference. As Machiavelli famously observed, it is better for a prince to be feared than loved. For all his intelligence, nobody fears Mr Obama...
Sunday, February 28, 2010
Friday, February 26, 2010
Furious at the tempest over the Tea Party -- the scattershot citizen uprising against big government and wild spending -- Annabel Park did what any American does when she feels her voice has been drowned out: She squeezed her anger into a Facebook status update.
let's start a coffee party . . . smoothie party. red bull party. anything but tea. geez. ooh how about cappuccino party? that would really piss 'em off bec it sounds elitist . . . let's get together and drink cappuccino and have real political dialogue with substance and compassion.
Friends replied, and more friends replied. So last month, in her Silver Spring apartment, Park started a fan page called "Join the Coffee Party Movement." Within weeks, her inbox and page wall were swamped by thousands of comments from strangers in diverse locales, such as the oil fields of west Texas and the suburbs of Chicago.
I have been searching for a place of refuge like this for a long while. . . . It is not Us against the Govt. It is democracy vs corporatocracy . . . I just can't believe that the Tea Party speaks for all patriotic Americans.. . . Just sent suggestions to 50 friends . . . I think it's time we start a chapter right here in Tucson . . .
The snowballing response made her the de facto coordinator of Coffee Party USA, with goals far loftier than its oopsy-daisy origin: promote civility and inclusiveness in political discourse, engage the government not as an enemy but as the collective will of the people, push leaders to enact the progressive change for which 52.9 percent of the country voted in 2008.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Gay and lesbian state workers in Virginia are no longer specifically protected against discrimination, thanks to a little-noticed change made by new Gov. Bob McDonnell.
McDonnell (R) on Feb. 5 signed an executive order that prohibits discrimination "on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin, religion, age, political affiliation, or against otherwise qualified persons with disabilities," as well as veterans.
It rescinds the order that Gov. Tim Kaine signed Jan. 14, 2006 as one of his first actions. After promising a "fair and inclusive" administration in his inaugural address, Kaine (D) added veterans to the non-discrimination policy - and sexual orientation.
Nobody wants to admit that on health care, the moderates won all the big fights. Single-payer was out at the start. The public option died. A Medicare buy-in died. The number of Americans who would be covered shrank. The insurance companies held on to their antitrust exemption. If a bill eventually becomes law--as it must if the Democrats are not to look like a feckless, useless lot--the final proposal will be much closer to the moderate Senate version than to the more progressive bill passed by the House.
And if the Republicans refuse to cooperate, this will not mean that the bill isn't moderate. It will mean only that Republicans refuse to vote for a moderate bill.
But if all the media talk about the "failure of moderation" is nonsense, this doesn't get liberals or Obama off the hook.
While liberals were arguing about public plans and this or that, and while Obama was deep into inside deal-making, the conservatives relentlessly made a straightforward public case based on a syllogism: The economy is a mess. Obama and the Democrats are for big government. Big government is responsible for the mess. Therefore the mess is the fault of Obama and the Big Government Democrats.
Simplistic and misleading? Absolutely. But if liberals and Obama are so smart, how did they--or, if you prefer, "we"--allow conservatives to make this argument so effectively? Why do the mainstream media give it so much credence?
Of course, I think the conservatives' argument is wrong. But at this point, I have to admire their daring and discipline.
And the key point of the entire piece:
Moderate and progressive Democrats alike have eight months between now and this fall's elections to change the terms of the debate and prove they can govern. Otherwise, they'll be washed out by a tidal wave.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
The Obama administration is still paying a price for its marketing missteps. Rightly or wrongly, the president's first big initiative is widely seen as missing the mark.