Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2011 03:55 pm
What have they done with President Obama? What happened to the inspirational figure his supporters thought they elected? Who is this bland, timid guy who doesn’t seem to stand for anything in particular?

Paul Krugman

I realize that with hostile Republicans controlling the House, there’s not much Mr. Obama can get done in the way of concrete policy. Arguably, all he has left is the bully pulpit. But he isn’t even using that — or, rather, he’s using it to reinforce his enemies’ narrative.

His remarks after last week’s budget deal were a case in point.

Maybe that terrible deal, in which Republicans ended up getting more than their opening bid, was the best he could achieve — although it looks from here as if the president’s idea of how to bargain is to start by negotiating with himself, making pre-emptive concessions, then pursue a second round of negotiation with the G.O.P., leading to further concessions.

And bear in mind that this was just the first of several chances for Republicans to hold the budget hostage and threaten a government shutdown; by caving in so completely on the first round, Mr. Obama set a baseline for even bigger concessions over the next few months.

But let’s give the president the benefit of the doubt, and suppose that $38 billion in spending cuts — and a much larger cut relative to his own budget proposals — was the best deal available. Even so, did Mr. Obama have to celebrate his defeat? Did he have to praise Congress for enacting “the largest annual spending cut in our history,” as if shortsighted budget cuts in the face of high unemployment — cuts that will slow growth and increase unemployment — are actually a good idea?

Among other things, the latest budget deal more than wipes out any positive economic effects of the big prize Mr. Obama supposedly won from last December’s deal, a temporary extension of his 2009 tax cuts for working Americans. And the price of that deal, let’s remember, was a two-year extension of the Bush tax cuts, at an immediate cost of $363 billion, and a potential cost that’s much larger — because it’s now looking increasingly likely that those irresponsible tax cuts will be made permanent.

More broadly, Mr. Obama is conspicuously failing to mount any kind of challenge to the philosophy now dominating Washington discussion — a philosophy that says the poor must accept big cuts in Medicaid and food stamps; the middle class must accept big cuts in Medicare (actually a dismantling of the whole program); and corporations and the rich must accept big cuts in the taxes they have to pay. Shared sacrifice!

I’m not exaggerating. The House budget proposal that was unveiled last week — and was praised as “bold” and “serious” by all of Washington’s Very Serious People — includes savage cuts in Medicaid and other programs that help the neediest, which would among other things deprive 34 million Americans of health insurance. It includes a plan to privatize and defund Medicare that would leave many if not most seniors unable to afford health care. And it includes a plan to sharply cut taxes on corporations and to bring the tax rate on high earners down to its lowest level since 1931.

The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center puts the revenue loss from these tax cuts at $2.9 trillion over the next decade. House Republicans claim that the tax cuts can be made “revenue neutral” by “broadening the tax base” — that is, by closing loopholes and ending exemptions. But you’d need to close a lot of loopholes to close a $3 trillion gap; for example, even completely eliminating one of the biggest exemptions, the mortgage interest deduction, wouldn’t come close. And G.O.P. leaders have not, of course, called for anything that drastic. I haven’t seen them name any significant exemptions they would end.

You might have expected the president’s team not just to reject this proposal, but to see it as a big fat political target. But while the G.O.P. proposal has drawn fire from a number of Democrats — including a harsh condemnation from Senator Max Baucus, a centrist who has often worked with Republicans — the White House response was a statement from the press secretary expressing mild disapproval.

What’s going on here? Despite the ferocious opposition he has faced since the day he took office, Mr. Obama is clearly still clinging to his vision of himself as a figure who can transcend America’s partisan differences. And his political strategists seem to believe that he can win re-election by positioning himself as being conciliatory and reasonable, by always being willing to compromise.

But if you ask me, I’d say that the nation wants — and more important, the nation needs — a president who believes in something, and is willing to take a stand. And that’s not what we’re seeing. 

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Type: Discussion • Score: 23 • Views: 23,122 • Replies: 540

 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2011 03:56 pm
I want a new candidate for 2012.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2011 04:01 pm
@edgarblythe,
That has occurred to me too. But it's a little late for a really interesting new one.
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2011 04:17 pm
We have been duped. First, Clinton the closet Republican, then the Obama whatever he is.
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2011 04:28 pm
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2011 04:35 pm
@edgarblythe,
I can see his reasoning some of the time, though I've lost count of how much I disagree on various things.
Mostly I see rollovers, not to or for Beethoven but to berzerk haven.
The go along and get along thing is destructive.
I admit I never thought he was a major changer, just a sane man in the public sphere.
I still think he's pretty sane, but is paying too much attention to the plain old wrong.
I think it takes more than one man or woman.
H2O MAN
 
  -3  
Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2011 04:38 pm


As far as doing anything to help Americas fragile economy
is concerned, PrezBO has MIA even before his inauguration.
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2011 04:43 pm
@ossobuco,
I think it takes more than conceding so much to the opposition while taking little in return.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2011 04:46 pm
@edgarblythe,
I edited to clarify what I meant. But re your point, I so agree.
Eva
 
  0  
Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2011 04:49 pm
I'm sorry, but that "President Trump?" ad keeps appearing at the bottom of this thread and distracting me. <gag>
ossobuco
 
  0  
Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2011 04:49 pm
@ossobuco,
I've just finished a de Maupassant story (egads that guy was prolific for a decade) and one of the characters said something that resonated with me, in the story, Boule de Suif (something like round of suet, but don't trust my french, which doesn't exist).
It was the woman, the boule, who said it. Back when I nab a quote.
0 Replies
 
ossobuco
 
  0  
Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2011 04:51 pm
@Eva,
Me too, but I take it as high comedy.
Where is Daumier when we need him?
Eva
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2011 04:55 pm
@ossobuco,
ossobuco wrote:

...I take it as high comedy....


That was my reaction when Sarah Palin's name was first mentioned. After that, I'm inclined to believe people will vote for literally anyone if their campaign has enough money behind it.

Daumier...yes, he would have a field day with this.
edgarblythe
 
  2  
Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2011 04:55 pm
@Eva,
Eva wrote:

I'm sorry, but that "President Trump?" ad keeps appearing at the bottom of this thread and distracting me. <gag>

Trump is a joke, but so was Bush, until he got nominated. Then he became our worst nightmare.
Eva
 
  5  
Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2011 05:01 pm
@edgarblythe,
Exactly.

Compared to Bush43, Obama still looks like a knight in shining armor to me.
0 Replies
 
Cycloptichorn
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2011 05:17 pm
@edgarblythe,
edgarblythe wrote:

I think it takes more than conceding so much to the opposition while taking little in return.


Well.... while I'm not happy with the result, I'm trying to keep in mind that this fight isn't the big one. Not by a long shot. Just a distraction.

I'm happier to see the president stake out a brighter line on the Debt Limit expansion and the upcoming 2012 budget.

Cycloptichorn
edgarblythe
 
  2  
Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2011 05:29 pm
@Cycloptichorn,
If he digs in his heels enough, I could change my mind. Right now I am almost as unhappy as if McCain had won.
Cycloptichorn
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2011 05:36 pm
@edgarblythe,
edgarblythe wrote:

If he digs in his heels enough, I could change my mind. Right now I am almost as unhappy as if McCain had won.


Don't say that. Things would be about a billion times worse.

If it makes you any happier, the Republicans on the web are ALL bitching about how badly they got rolled by the Prez and the Dems, and are all pissed that they didn't get a better deal.

Cycloptichorn
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2011 05:39 pm
@Cycloptichorn,
They are young and think the Teaparty momentum should bring the whole process to heel. They don't realize how lucky they are.
realjohnboy
 
  1  
Reply Mon 11 Apr, 2011 06:15 pm
@edgarblythe,
In the Rasmussen poll out today, those who "strongly approve" of Obama's performance fell to a new low. I assume that the people in that category are Dems who feel he was not as proactive as he should have been in last week's battle over the budget for the rest of 2011.
I think he will be much more involved with the soon to be discussed 2012 budget and the extremely important issue of raising the debt limit.
His speech Wednesday on budget deficits could be crucial.
 

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