Monday, January 5, 2009

Again, the importance of what they will actually do

Mark Thoma writes today:

Obama Plan Includes $300 Billion in Tax Cuts "to win over Congressional skeptics worried that he was too focused on government spending." Guess who the skeptics are? "Republicans have begun voicing criticism of what they describe as an open-checkbook approach to spending. By focusing more attention on the tax cuts in the plan, Obama aides hope to frame it as a balanced, pragmatic approach." The centrist urge to compromise may give too much away.

Yeah! We may pay a big price for again putting too much weight on style, the superficial, and personal characteristics, rather than what a politician would actually do. Obama all throughout the campaign showed that he was very concerned with sounding "new-age" and compromising, at the expense of doing far more good. If you greatly compromise with dangerous extremists you end up with something not very good, or very bad -- the half way point between good and extremely bad is very bad (or even worse than that). Hillary showed every indication that, like FDR, she would have fought for something very good, and she would probably have succeeded, like FDR, with such strong public support for something very good and such strong majorities in congress.

When will we ever learn to vote for how much good they are likely to actually do, and not all of these other less important, or vastly less important things. I warned about this early in the campaign, for example here, here, and here.

It's also crucial to note that Obama's compromising is not a good strategy politically. By not greatly compromising with extremist Republicans and instead fighting to get the New Deal, FDR did so much good for the vast majority of Americans, in a way that was so clear and obvious once it was enacted, that it generated massive gratitude and confidence in the Democrats. This allowed them to dominate for 30 years, and forced the Republicans to move far to the left during that period.

The best thing that Obama can do is fight for something truly good, and not largely compromise with extremists who have done such immense harm, unless it's really unavoidable, especially since, with such public support and large Democratic majorities in congress, he clearly can win. For more on this please see here.

As Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman said today:

Look, Republicans are not going to come on board. Make 40% of the package tax cuts, they’ll demand 100%. Then they’ll start the thing about how you can’t cut taxes on people who don’t pay taxes (with only income taxes counting, of course) and demand that the plan focus on the affluent. Then they’ll demand cuts in corporate taxes. And Mitch McConnell is already saying that state and local governments should get loans, not aid — which would undermine that part of the plan, too.

And as Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) said:

I think he overestimates his ability to take people — particularly our colleagues on the Right — and sort of charm them into being nice. I know he talks about being post-partisan. But I’ve worked frankly with Newt Gingrich, Tom Delay, and the current Republican leadership. …When he talks about being post partisan, having seen these people and knowing what they would do in that situation, I suffer from post partisan depression.

Of course, it's still early; Obama hasn't even taken office yet. Let's hope he fights for the great good that he can achieve, as best as he realistically can. Opportunities like this are all too rare.