Posted on 20-10-2010
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

It has been very frustrating in the last year to listen to former Obama supporters complain that “he has not done anything.”  Faced with the worst economic condition for an incoming president since FDR, two wars, an opposition committed to voting no on any administration proposal and blocking many nominees (who later somehow get confirmed almost unanimously) and a wing of his own party paralyzed by timidity, Obama did not possess a magic wand to clean up the mess he inherited.  He could have easily lapsed into Bill Clinton style incrementalism, but did not.  My biggest complaints against him are (1) the opportunities squandered in pursuit of bipartisan compromise with an opposition united in lockstep truculence and expecting Obama to pass only their version of legislation (even though they lost the last two election cycles), and (2) his failure to clean up the excesses of the Bush administration’s tactics in the war on terror, where he has provided soothing rhetoric but little substance.  And yet in 2 years Obama has a litany of legislative accomplishments that dwarf his predecessors.  While the extreme left is disappointed in the health-care bill, Obama is the first president to actually get such comprehensive legislation through.

I will not make an exhaustive list of his accomplishments, because I don’t have to.  I recommend reading this article from Tim Dickinson at the Rolling Stone which lays them out.

I will harp on one accomplishment that has not got the press it deserves, and is noted in Dickinson’s article.  Passed with universal opposition from the Republican Party and to the disgust of libertarians of the Chicago school, Obama did what Reagan also did in the early 1980’s.  He bailed out Detroit.  The bailout prevented the cascading job losses in the Midwest that would have followed a collapse of General Motors and Chrysler.  The job picture would be far bleaker if he adopted the Republican party’s prescription of letting these companies fail.

Dickinson does not dwell too much on foreign policy (but he does raise some of the points below) where a lot of Obama’s accomplishments have been in tone more than substance.  But he has managed to bring Russia and China on board for sanctions on Iran and has stayed away from the pointless neo-con drumbeat for war.  The irritants from Caracas to Tehran have had a harder time rallying anti-American sentiments against the Obama administration.  The lack of substance unfortunately reflects the limitations of American power compounded by Israeli intransigence (aided by their allies here) and Palestinian weakness.

Much more needs to be done (notably sensible immigration reform grounded in reality).  But the man mocked as an inexperienced community organizer has accomplished a lot with relatively little public infighting within his administration.  These are accomplishments the Republicans will have a hard time rolling back.

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Posted on 20-10-2010
Filed Under (Politics) by Rashtrakut

After two years of listening to bloviating politicians and clueless tea partiers proclaim themselves as fiscal conservatives and deficit hawks, here is a checklist on how to find the preening peacock under the hawk’s clothing:

  • They will loudly proclaim their opposition to tax cuts of any kind.  Tax cuts are evidently always job killers, even though the economy did just fine at the Clinton tax rates.
  • They will support tax cuts as a way to magically raise revenue, facts be damned.  They will also deny that the Bush tax cuts helped balloon the deficit.
  • The budget deficit (state or federal) will be somehow be eliminated solely by cutting spending.  However, they will not spell out what spending will actually be cut.
Fiscal Year 2009 U.S. Federal Spending Projections- Cash or Budget Basis.
    • Defense spending is evidently sacrosanct, even though nobody can explain why we need to spend about 40% of the world’s military spending.
    • A few like Paul Ryan will come up with a plan to reform Medicare by essentially not paying medical bills, a plan that has no chance of passing.  Most will not specify exactly what they will cut.
    • Social Security is sometimes a target for privatization or raising the eligibility age.  Yet again few candidates will risk the wrath of older voters (who actually vote) by offering specifics.  It is a separate issue that the problem with Social Security is not the program itself, but the government’s tendency to use the money for other reasons.
    • Most of the ire is focused on the relatively minor amount of discretionary spending (and it will not be possible to eliminate ALL of it), the few billion dollars of stimulus spending which will make no dent on a trillion dollar deficit and items like TARP (which after all the brouhaha will be a fairly small charge (if any) on the Treasury).
  • They will likely be Blue Dog Democrats like Evan Bayh and Blanche Lincoln, Republicans or self professed tea party members.

A few prominent deficit peacocks are noted below:

  • California Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina who frustrated one of the few journalists on Fox News by refusing to answer what exactly cut.

  • California Republican candidate for Governor Meg Whitman whose math for solving the Golden State’s budget problems are as fuzzy as Bill Brady.

  • And just for giggles a compilation of Republicans (including John Boehner and Jeff Sessions) who cannot identify any concrete spending cuts to fix the deficit.  All you get is a dose of blather that they will magically fix the problem.

So there is one final characteristic of a deficit peacock….a lot of hot air.

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