Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Road Less Traveled

I never thought that it would come to this, but the Obama administration is running scared. After the result in the Massachusetts senatorial election last week, the administration is now trying to sound as many populist themes as possible. The latest is the proposed "spending freeze" for the next three years. Of course that spending freeze does not take into account the largest items in the budget and in fact only affects about 1/8 of the total expenditure of the budget. It does not include defense spending, but would include entitlement programs to millions of Americans.

First this "spending freeze" would not, in any significant way, affect the budget deficit. Secondly, during a time of economic crisis, the last thing the White House should be doing is to put a freeze on additional spending. Most economists say that we need a second stimulus package to help to stoke this rather fragile economic recovery that is supposedly underway. Under this new "spending freeze", that would be off the table. The President flat out rejected a spending freeze during the campaign, saying that would be like using a sledgehammer when we needed a scalpel. What has happened in the last 13 months that would have made him now adopt a proposal of John McCain that he rejected out of hand during the campaign? Could it be a loss of a Senate seat that has been Democratic for multiple generations? Could it be sagging poll numbers? Could it be the impending loss of multiple seats in the Senate and the possible loss of control of Congress? Could it be the teabaggers loud protest?

Whatever the reason, it does not sound like a policy decision that is part of a long term strategy. This smacks of desperation. This is a tactic, and a faulty one at that, that is supposed to garner some short term result in the polls. It clearly is not part of the long term strategy that this administration set in place when it entered the White House. I have always felt that the Obama White House had a long term strategy in place and was willing to suffer a short term loss in order to assure that the long term goals were met. This impulsive policy decision has shaken my belief to the core. It there is no long term strategy in place, then what exactly is being decided over on Pennsylvania Avenue? Have they now decided to bend to the wishes of the Teabaggers? Have they now decided that it's better to get along that it is be right?

I have stated before that I do not always agree with this administration, but I have always believed that there is a long term strategy in place. I may not agree with all decisions, but I could always imagine that they were part of a master plan. Now, I'm not so sure. This "spending freeze" is pointless and dangerous. The well being of our economy should not be subject to the whims of the polls or based on whether a decision will be popular with a majority of the people. Obama has always said that he doesn't care if he's a one term President as long as he feels that he did the job that he set out to do. This is a major misstep along that road. And if he starts down this path, he may find himself unable to return the path that he set for himself when he took this job.
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Beekeepers Apprentice said...

I am absolutely dis-gusted. Now, my crazy as loons teabagger co-workers really think they are vindicated in their tiny-brained beliefs. That's the WORST PART OF IT!!


Gwendolyn H. Barry said...

It's hard to swallow, it's confusing and so disappointing. It's getting to be much, and makes you wonder what is the point? I appreciate your concerns Michael, I've been wondering for a couple of months... but you know what ... it's still just a year. I agree with your sentiments on our economy. mucho. ahhhh. It scares me, and I'm holding my breath. :-)

Beach Bum said...

Politics sucks in the best of times but this ain't the best of times. I'm with you on being disappointed and down right disgusted on several things but I also feel we Democrats might have put the president on too high of a pedestal.

He just a man, a good man, but he has to work around a congress and the senate where sometimes members of his own party are his worst enemies. And this is with the republicans out to lynch the guy.

Oso said...

I also think the Repubs have backed him into a corner with Bernanke; Obama knows it would appear his policy is failing if he cut loos one of it's principals.

So Repubs attack Bernanke not out of principle or even basic understanding of monetary policy but only as a way to force Obama to back an unpopular figurehead.

Jack Jodell said...

I think you've sized the situation up very perceptively and have raised valid concern. I am glad to see he dug his heels in and said he'll stick with phasing out W's ridiculous tax cuts for the rich. His drive to tax the big banks which caused this recession is a good move, too. But this spending freeze razzmatazz is just a stupid dog and pony show he ought to jam back into the toy box and shove off a cliff. As FDR learned in 1937, bowing to Republicans by trimming government spending in the middle of a bad downturn only worsens the problem. I give Obama more credit than that. Let's see what really goes down...

Mycue23 said...

I hate having teabaggers think that they are somehow driving policy. emboldening stupid people does not help our country in any way.

As I said in that response to you, it has only been a year and there is much more time for his overall strategy to work. However this spending freeze is a stunt and clearly off message. Hopefully it doesn't become a trend.

I think that most of us had unreasonably high goals when Obama was elected. But his failure to fulfil all of those pie in the sky dreams is different from taking a step that he clearly disagreed with just a year ago, especially when that step does not address the larger issues at hand. I still believe in the President's overall agenda, but bowing to any Republican/teabagger demands does not bring any additional support and only serves to batter the emotional reserves of the people who voted for him.

Bernake and Gietner need to go. Any ties to Goldman Sachs people needs to be cut. I'm not sure why the administration hasn't come to that realization. When people see the bankers getting rich (even though they almost succeeded in bankrupting the country) it makes them angry. And when they see those same people in charge of the Government's money it makes them question whether the administration is working for them or for the bankers. And that is a valid question.

I'm hopeful that his stance on the Bush tax cut is real. This latest capitulation makes me wonder though. Will he eventually decide to bow to pressure? Will the poll numbers before the next Congressional election make him desperate to approve something that the Right wants? I hope that time will show that he is made of stronger stuff than that.

Gwendolyn H. Barry said...

Just when I thought it might be a clean get away...

He pulls me back, heart first, mind follows. I'm not satisfied,
I was proud of him last night. Not entirely satisfied but omg! So much the better.
I thought I'd post my positive here first. :-)

SJ said...

most of the newsmedia is still pretending this administration isn't facing the most monolithic, unified, top-to-bottom opposition from Republicans in history.

The President keeps trying to play ball with his self-identified adversaries, while they keep screaming "the ball is mine, mine, mine, mine!!!"

The President needs to stop reaching out to people who: obstruct for the sake of obstruction; who have no plan other than to stop anything that upsets the establishment; want the country to fail on his watch.


Because they're already getting want they want:
-which is to have no part in reform,
which is to have no role in making sure the Rich pay their fair share.

The spending freeze is not even a stop gap, like you said it doesn't even address the big tickets in our national budget. All it did was get the GOP to whisper amongst itself for a grand total of like 30 seconds.


TRUTH 101 said...

A very wise post which for which I have nothing to add.

tnlib said...

BB: "He just a man, a good man, but he has to work around a congress and the senate where sometimes members of his own party are his worst enemies. And this is with the republicans out to lynch the guy."

So true and I wish more people would remember that.

Vigilante said...

Mycue, my take is that the 44th POTUS has been faced with more sh*t than any other president in history (almost). 2nd, I don't think he has surrounded himself with strong advisers. They are smart. But they are not strong. Two conspicuous omissions come to mind, but I'm not going to pronounce their names until I think about this some more. Obama, himself may be strong. But all this shit from Bushencheny is just too much for his shoulders. There's a real danger, IMO, that there may not be any center in the center of this administration.

Mycue23 said...

I think that his team may have approached the office with some of the naivate that the Clinton team did. Swept up in the idea that were going to change the way DC does business. It took Clinton a couple of years to realize that wasn't going to happen and perhaps that realization is finally dawning on the Obama team as well. It seems strange because Obama brought some of the Clinton team with him, but I guess they thought somehow this time would be different. I still beleive in the man and his ultimate goals. Given the shit storm that was left for him, I think he has made some tough decisions that were for the better when it comes to the economy. I think we both agree to disagree on his Afghanistan policy, but at least he's being consistent with his campaign promises in regards to the war. It's the lack of consistency regarding this "spending freeze" that concerns me. He specifically rejected it during the campaign and to employ it now seems terribly gimicky to me.

As far as his team goes, I haven't been impressed. I thought that they would get down to some serious LBJ type ass kicking in the house and senate, but that hasn't been the case. By allowing the disfunctional Congress to lead, he has gotten back some disfunctional bills. He needs to take a stronger lead in the process, certainly when it comes to health care. I understand that one of the major criticisms of the Clinton plan was that they brought it the Congress without allowing their imput, but there has to be a middle ground somewhere.

Vigilante said...

Yes! Yes! Your point about drawing too heavily from the Clinton well is so well-taken. A very good point, shared my many.

Vigilante said...