President Obama Reintroduces Himself

Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a freelance journalist and blogger. He considers Bob Dylan and Walter Sobchak to be the two great Jewish thinkers of our time; he thinks Kafka was half-right when he said there was hope, "but not for us"; and he can be reached through the twitter via @eliasisquith or via email. The opinions he expresses on the blog and throughout the interwebs are exclusively his own.

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132 Responses

  1. Stillwater says:

    I’m not sure how much agree with this. To take Digby as an example, I think she was a start-struck, hopey-changey as anyone back in 2008. And personally, I think she imposed a vision on Obama that wasn’t consistent with his campaign rhetoric, or his specific policy proposals, or even his broader vision about how to get things done. So it’s a case where she’s blaming her disappointment in Obama on Obama rather than her own unrealistic expectations of Obama.

    Liberals, including Digby back in the day, wanted Leadership!, and Unitary Executive-ness!, and all that other bullshit, and blamed Obama for their own unrealistic expectations. I have very little patience for that type of revisionism. I have the same amount of patience for people who think a politician failed them personally.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

      {{Re-reading the post, I think we may actually more or less agree on this point, yes?}}Report

      • Elias in reply to Stillwater says:

        Haha, yes. I was thinking at first I must’ve done a terrible a terrible job expressing myself on this…Report

        • Stillwater in reply to Elias says:

          No, you did an excellent job of it. I was just blinded by my reflexive dislike of Digby’s ever-changing-yet-perpetual criticisms of Obama and how he has personally Let Her Down, and let that get the better of me.Report

    • Chasm in reply to Stillwater says:

      I agree, and Digby is too experienced be complaining that Obama hasn’t lived up to his lofty rhetoric. I could understand the kids falling for Big Hope, but any liberal who remembers the Clinton 90’s should’ve been rolling their eyes when Obama talked about changing the tone in Washington (well, the tone did change, but in exactly the opposite way that Obama predicted).

      Every politician campaigns as a ‘uniter,’ and at least Obama gave the appearance of trying, unlike Bush who intentionally divided the nation under Rove’s guidance as a campaign strategy.

      What I don’t get about all the moping is that Obama has achieved far more in his first term than Clinton did, and he’s been far more effective as a liberal on social issues like gay marriage and DADT. The biggest difference is that there is a 24/7 Vilify Obama Channel running that has poisoned the discourse and which continually reinforces a mood of defeat and failure that is belied by the actual record. It’s not so much that conservatives hate Obama so much more than Clinton, though they probably do, but that the Right has a megaphone to blast that hate nationwide.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Chasm says:

        What I don’t get about all the moping is that Obama has achieved far more in his first term than Clinton did, and he’s been far more effective as a liberal on social issues like gay marriage and DADT.

        Exactly. But! … he didn’t hammer thru single payer, so he betrayed us all! And his duplicity surrounding the Debt Ceiling Crisis! Bully Pulpit! Unitary Executive! And all that other nonsense. It gets fucking tiring.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

          Should Clinton have passed a plan similar to Obamacare back in 1993/94?Report

          • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:


            • Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

              He had a shot. Why was there so much opposition to the Republican plan at the time?

              And, for that matter, why was there so much support for it this time?

              Are we wiser neoliberals today than we were then?Report

              • I get the point you’re trying to make (or at least I think I do), and I agree that Clinton should have gone for the Republican plan. But there’s not really all that much support for it now, given that the Republicans don’t stand by it anymore.Report

              • MikeSchilling in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

                And would have dropped it the minute Clinton expressed support.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                I don’t know that Newt would have been capable of dumping the Heritage plan that quickly, that publically.

                (Insert “he was married to it!” joke here.)Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

                Why, how much shamelessness would that have required?Report

              • North in reply to Jaybird says:

                As I understand it Jaybird the entire point of the Heritage plan was that it was swiftly buried once Hillarycare collapsed. It existed only as a foil to another plan. It was never intended as a genuine offer; thus the conservative fury when the weapon was stolen by Obama and turned into an actual piece of legislation. It was almost karmic.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Jaybird says:

                Why was there so much opposition to the Republican plan at the time? And, for that matter, why was there so much support for it this time?

                This time, the Dem caucus held the House and had 60 seats in the Senate.

                Last time, just like this time, the GOP did everything they could to prevent passage of a health care bill.Report

              • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Stillwater says:

                The conservative agenda is to oppose whatever Obama is in favor of, updated daily.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                Yup. Cleek’s Law.Report

              • Some famous conservative (Buckley?) once said something to the effect of, “Evidence from everywhere around the world is that once passed, universal health care is so popular it can never be repealed. Therefore it is critical that we do whatever it takes to keep it from passing.” The rest of their attitude towards health care plans follows from that.Report

              • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Michael Cain says:

                It was a famous polling memo around ClintonCare time from Bill Kristol.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Michael Cain says:

                It does sound terribly cynical, but of course popularity != good, and while any non-tyrannical government must be responsive to citizens’ demands, it also needs to be able to discern which demands are actually good for the polity and which are not.

                Which is not an argument against universal health care, but an argument that those who sincerely believe it is not a good thing are not necessarily wrong in opposing the majority and trying to prevent it from getting what it–mistakenly, they believe–wants.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Cain says:

                James I agree – if they have conviction that it’s bad, it doesn’t sound cynical, it just sounds honest. Now, if they don’t actually have that conviction, but instead want to hold out the possibility of (a version of) universal health care as a go-to buy-off to bail their party out with an unhappy public in a future time of desperation (or some such), then of course it obviously *is* every bit that cynical. In my view (at least until Ryan came along – long before that Kristol quote, though Kristol is a big Ryan-backer now), the party’s position on Medicare (preserve it! you’re terrible if you cut it!) suggests a certain lack of principle on the question of universal, or at least state-centralized, health care.Report

              • Troublesome Frog in reply to Michael Cain says:

                If they end up passing the law and being happy with the results, is there still a good argument to be made that it’s not good for them? Unless we’re talking about something with victims like Jim Crow laws, can you still make a good argumet that you’re protecting the polity from itself?

                I can see the argument if what they think will happen is not what will really happen, but it seems to me that once the law is passed and everybody has seen the before and after, that’s pretty much the definition of informed policymaking.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Chasm says:

        ” he’s been far more effective as a liberal on social issues like gay marriage and DADT.”

        As an aside, I’ll give you that this is true looking at the scoreboard, but not necessarily looking at the fantasy league stats. Clinton got to DADT from a status quo that actively sought out gays and lesbians and preemptively denied them security clearances – basically in the same category as criminals and Communists. The same sex marriage difference is more favorable to Obama – signing DOMA* is indeed an opposite direction on the issue as no longer defending it in court. But no longer defending it in court is not much, and nothing particularly active or ‘leaderly’.

        In any case, the social and political field that Obama had to work with was far more favorable to him than to Clinton. This is somewhat like giving more credit to LBJ than FDR for civil rights – yes, LBJ deserves it (and the analogy is flawed, because LBJ *does* deserve a lot more credit for (race-oriented) civil rights than Obama does for LBGTetc rights), but nonetheless, FDR was governing at a different time.

        *though the final Congressional vote was well above 2/3 in both houses.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Chasm says:

        And Obama has Fox News, but he also has MSNBC. Clinton had a then newly ascendent Rush Limbaugh at the height of his powers.Report

  2. Matty says:

    Is that picture of the two candidates singing a duet? What was the song?Report

  3. LWA (Lib W Attitude) says:

    I honestly get exasperated with my newfound liberal allies like Digby.

    It strikes me as a bit of Daddy-worship where they want a single Heroic Man to stride in and give us the liberal dream state…of course, we all will be passive recipients of this largesse, without us having to go out and win allies, argue our point of view, canvass door to door, hold townhall meetings, man the call centers, and so on.Report

    • Jeff No-Last-Name in reply to LWA (Lib W Attitude) says:

      In praise then of the much-maligned Balloon Juice, they knock Obama when he needs a knock, praise him when he done good, and, first and foremost, encourage donaation (of both time AND money) to Act Blue, which supports liberals across the country.Report

  4. Kolohe says:

    In light of this piece, I’m curious, Mr. Isquith, what you think of the argument that the so call fiscal cliff will be Obama’s opportunity to ‘release the Kraken’ (my words). Putting aside whether or not it’s a good idea on its merits, I have strong doubts that he will do so (he didn’t in Fall 2010) and that it would be a good idea, politically (Obama can’t get reelected, but Obama isn’t the only Democrat in America).Report

    • North in reply to Kolohe says:

      Emotionally I kind of like the idea of Obama just letting the cuts land and the taxes go up. It’d serve the GOP right. Problem is that it isn’t just conservatives tied to the train tracks but the entire country and the double whammy of this kind of heavy austerity could derail the entire economy (unless the GOP faithful are correct and severe austerity causes Ronal Regan and Jack Kemp to fly down from Heaven on angel wings to resurrect the economy with supply side pixie dust and give everyone a new kitten).

      More pragmatically I hope Obama plays hardball. If he wins his second term (and especially if the Dems keep the Senate which seems likely) then he has every reason to force the GOP to accept an actual compromise plan and should shout it from the rooftops if they try and double down on their No to everything position.Report

    • Elias Isquith in reply to Kolohe says:

      The people I trust that I read say they have no real idea what Obama might do about the so-called fiscal cliff if he were to win… so I’d only be totally guessing. Out of the *realistic* scenarios I’ve heard, my favorite is letting all the tax cuts expire and then immediately proposing “Obama Tax Cuts” for the bottom 98%. (Personally, I wish there were a scenario wherein we could actually raise taxes on everyone in the middle class [relative to what they are right now, that is] but have it tied to a certain date or level of growth before kicking-in.)

      As to 2010, I’ve read enough to say I’m pretty convinced they couldn’t have gotten a better deal then than they did, and I also buy their argument that they actually were able to wring a lot of otherwise unattainable stimulus out of the deal.Report

      • Scott Fields in reply to Elias Isquith says:

        Personally, I wish there were a scenario wherein we could actually raise taxes on everyone in the middle class [relative to what they are right now, that is] but have it tied to a certain date or level of growth before kicking-in.

        That’s a clever idea. Too clever for Washington, though. Sadly.Report

  5. Michael Drew says:

    I’m not really clear how many of these things were actually promised in 2008, and how many were just perceived as implied to be promised by the tone and thrust of the rhetoric he used. I’m not clear – this is not a denial. I don’t really remember a promise to end politics. I remember a clear suggestion that he’d try to work with Republicans. I’m not really sure what else a presidential candidate is supposed to say. I’ve never really bought, or even understood, the argument that because the GOP happen to be such bogeymen in this period, that Democratic leaders should abjure even the rhetoric of cooperation. If the GOP are going to be rejectionists, then they’re going to be rejectionists, and unfortunately there’s a political upside to it. But from a civic or a party-political standpoint, I don’t see how that means the party that seeks to be a majority-governing coalition should cast away even an expressed willingness to try to work with the intransigent minority. That’s just not responsible.

    Also, I fundamentally disagree with your entire takeaway from the debt ceiling. Not that it wasn’t a debacle because of the specifics of how they sought compromise – the Grand Bargain White Whale got in the way of a straightforward resolution of the problem. But (once they failed to include raising the d.c. in the 2010 tax agreement – and I’ve never understood why I should think that would have been a just-snap-their-fingers proposition either), to me it’s clear that compromise of some sort was the obvious order of the day, compelled by the basic dynamics of the situation. I don’t really understand how there’s a criticism to made of the administration for the general proposition of trying to pursue a compromise to resolve the debt ceiling stalemate. I’m not clear what the alternative was.

    But otherwise, good piece.;) Generally, I think Digby is concerned with ephemera in this particular line of criticism, or at least is engaging on a political frame so broad as to be kind of not worth the words. But that’s my opinion; she’s very good on minutiae too, so hey, she can spend her energy on what she wants. I’ve always thought there was something vaguely personal in her approach to Obama when she writes in this mode. Fair enough.Report

    • Jeff No-Last-Name in reply to Michael Drew says:

      ” I remember a clear suggestion that he’d try to work with Republicans”

      And he did. He held a two-day meeting with them very early in the administration. And for a day or two after, it looked like it had done some good. But within a week, the Hate Machine was back up to full blast.Report

    • I don’t think the pre-debt ceiling situation is actually that complicated, but I’m not speaking to the principles of some higher ideal of governing, etc. The short version: The way Obama’s presented himself since he unveiled the American Jobs Act is how he should’ve been operating ever since the 2010 blowout.

      He would’ve been criticized at first for not putting out his hand, but that would’ve been a short-term criticism in terms of merit (as we can see now, it was inevitable whether or not he tried so long as GOPers refused to work with him) and would’ve saved him the embarrassment of looking weak/in over his head.

      His problem by my estimation is not that he’s seen as too partisan but rather, and worse, he’s seen as a nice guy who just for some reason or another can’t get traction.Report

      • MFarmer in reply to Elias Isquith says:

        Do you think Obama should come forth with a plan to create jobs and hire whatever amount the experts say is needed to spur recovery? Wouldn’t this push the issue and force people in a down economy to trust that what he’s proposing will work or not, and that likely they will want to believe enough that they will vote for him. If Obama did this and it worked, do you think he would go forward with fighting for it after the election? I mean, at least 12 million jobs are needed, and he could propose that the pay is an amount which provides a living wage, thus creating enough stimulus to really kickstart the economy.Report

        • MFarmer in reply to MFarmer says:

          Then, to go even further, should Obama get Krugman and other Keynesian-type economists to development what could be called The Sustained Employment Anti-Recession Policy whereby so many jobs at a certain pay are created as needed on an ongoing basis to ensure at least 3% unemployment, adjusting the created jobs as needed to maintain an equilibrium, thus proactively heading off recessions?Report

  6. Morat20 says:

    I think Digby’s problem is pretty simple — what liberals, heck what Democrats wanted — was someone who would promote Democratic and/or liberal policies from a position other than “defensive crouch”.

    Obama…sorta delivered.

    I think Digby wanted a great orator who used the bully pulpit to get things done. What she got was a pragmatic technocrat who gave good speeches. He wasn’t interested in apologizing for being a Democrat, but he wanted “results” far more than he wanted it “his way”.

    Obama rarely drove the national debate. Obama seems, by nature, a consensus builder. Given that it seems quite impossible to build consensus with the GOP these days unless you have an “R” before your name (as proven by Republicans running screaming from their own ideas), I suppose she’s probably irritated mostly that lofty rhetoric designed to drive the conversation couldn’t possibly have done worse than spending a solid year trying to compromise with people whose first words on inauguration day were “We’re gonna make you a one-term President, even if we have to kick the economy in the balls”.Report

  7. Tom Van Dyke says:

    Can’t deny I’m enjoying these post-mortems on Obama’s presidency, although it is customary to wait until the patient is completely dead.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      In what sense is the OP or the discussion here also a post-mortem on the presidency rather than merely being a …discussion of what happened during this presidential term? Are these things as categories distinct, so that at a given time (such as a moment late in an election year where there is a significant chance an incumbent could fail to win re-election), an instance of the one might also be an instance of the other? Or at this juncture in a presidential term (or perhaps only in a situation as described in the forgoing parenthesis), are these two categories simply identical – multiple names for a single kind of things? Just curious.Report

      • Jeff No-Last-Name in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Tom is VERY heavily vested in Obama being a one-term President. I’m not sure of all the reasons (although I do think I know one or two), but it is what it is.Report

        • True. He’s a bad president. When Clinton beat Dole, or even when Barack beat McCain, I shrugged. Not his time.

          It is strange being the only partisan here @ LoOG. But I get by. 😉Report

          • Kim in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

            Like koz isn’t!
            Do you have tickets out of the country in case Obama wins?
            If not, I suppose you are a remarkably ineffectual partisan.Report

          • North in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

            Oh there’re tons of us partisans here. But you’re definitly one of few GOPartisans. Still you’re not alone. You have Koz and Neocon Scott to keep you company and maybe Mike D?Report

            • Kazzy in reply to North says:

              What makes someone a partisan?Report

              • Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

                flag waving, mostly. just because my guy did it makes it the best thing ever.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                When John Jackson does X, a partisan explains that, well, you have to understand, compromises need to be made, the Constitution is not a suicide pact, adults know that sometimes the most idealized outcome is a daydream and real outcomes involve horsetrading and, anyway, we ended up with a better deal than anybody else had ever been able to accomplish even if the childish people who thought that Superman could swoop in and give everyone a pony are disappointed.

                When Jack Johnson does X, this same person explains that we’re killing brown children, we’re burning the Constitution, and any affirmation of moral standing made by anyone even vaguely associated with X has been demonstrated to not only be farce but is actually part of a concerted effort to deceive.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

                A) JB’s definition is how I’ve been using the term here lately; to mean people who are so committed to their own party that they are unable to be objective. Our side is holy, your side is evil; our side is wise, your side are all fools, etc.

                B) Technically, all it means is that you’re pretty damn committed to your particular party and that it takes unusual circumstances to cause you to vote for the other party

                Those two are not coterminous, but A) is a sizable subset of B). Too sizable in my opinion, but that’s just human nature and it’s not confined to politics (yes, the Yankees really are hell-spawn and everyone who plays for them has sold their soul to Satan and tortures puppies and kittens for funsies, eh?).Report

              • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                Addendum: A) is what I mean when I say “pure partisanship,” meaning it’s unalloyed by any hint of objectivity. Of course the pure partisan will always believe they’re being entirely objective, and will be aghast at how other people are unable to see the clear and objective truth that they perceive so clearly.

                Dems can do it, too, of course. After all, it’s plain to everyone who’s paying attention that W. stole both of his elections, right?

                (Don’t even get me started on Greenies (already discussed by Tod) and libertarians. The major parties both draw from a broad enough spectrum that you can find “impure” partisans within them, whereas third parties–being programmatic parties, rather than umbrella parties–draw an even larger number of folks incapable of objectivity.)Report

              • Pyre in reply to Kazzy says:

                When someone says:

                Their guy lost the debate: “Oh, it doesn’t matter. Any bump that the other guy gets will be gone in a week and the other guy cheated in the debate and the moderators let him and…and… debates don’t matter anyway.”

                Their guy won the debate: “A rousing performance by my guy against the pathetic performance by the other lying bastard just restates why my guy is the best for the nation. This debate is important and well-informed charismatic people should pay attention so the trollish cave-dwellers who support the other guy can be confronted with the facts.”

                Then they’re a partisan.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to Pyre says:

                Gallup said Obama won the debate, then sank to a new low vs. Romney 52-45. So can he afford to win another?


              • James Hanley in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                See, that’s not partisan. It’s just pointedly funny.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Pyre says:

                Thanks, Pyre, JB, and James. That is how I generally think of the term. But I can see it being very quickly bastardized into saying, “Oh, you voted Republican? Clearly you’re just a partisan hack.” Which makes it meaningless.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                There’s nothing wrong with having a team and, on top of that, there’s nothing wrong with any of EITHER of the arguments against Jack Johnson or John Jackson.

                The problem is that it’s possible for someone to ask for understanding and pragmatism for when their team is in power and to demand some semblance of principle on the part of the other team *WITHOUT REALIZING IT*.

                We saw it when it came to Republicans and spending under Dubya, we see it with… well. You know where you see it with Obama.

                On the off chance that we see Romney re-elected, you’ll have the joys of watching a great many views evolve (perhaps even your own) on such things as Guantanamo, Afghanistan, drone attacks, raising the debt ceiling, and any number of areas.

                More’s the point: each flip-flop or straddle or seemingly inconsistent change you witness is likely to be 100% sincere.

                You’ll want to ask yourself though: why is it that warrantless wiretaps weren’t important in (time period) but they are so very important in (other time period)? What are the people cheering for *REALLY* cheering for? What are the people booing *REALLY* booing?

                If you come up with an answer that makes you feel better about yourself, I think that that’s an interesting development as well.Report

              • Pyre in reply to Kazzy says:

                I would disagree with “There’s nothing wrong with having a team” if you take it to Daily Kos levels. I wandered over there after the first debate and the level of self-reassurance posts was nothing short of staggering.

                Then there were the truly bizarre ones. There was one quite popular theory at Daily Kos which stated that Obama willingly threw the first debate as some bizarre master plan to get his side to “wake the **** up” and sweep the Republicans from both the presidental and congressional elections .

                I think that, when you start willfully engaging in some completely self-delusional off-the-wall theories, you really need to take a step back and ask if this strip applies to you.


              • Jaybird in reply to Pyre says:

                One ought always try to be aware of one’s own motivations when making an argument. I think that our good friend Occam gave us good advice and one ought regularly go out for the proverbial shave… now, of course, there are a lot of cases where the simplest explanation is *NOT* the right one… but, generally, if you require something akin to a “Secret Master Plan”, the person you’re lying to is probably not “someone else”.Report

            • Patrick Cahalan in reply to North says:

              Mike is sounding more and more like an upcoming independent to my ear.Report

      • North in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Let him have this Michael, if I was stuck with Romney as a candidate I’d be desperate too.Report

        • MFarmer in reply to North says:

          This election is not about the candidates for many people.Report

          • MFarmer in reply to MFarmer says:

            It’s about which party will creat jobs and kickstart the economy. That’s why Obama is missing an opportunity by not going big and proming the creation of 12 million jobs at a very good wage. He should get a group of economists to give him the numbers necessary to sustain economic growth at the desired rate.Report

            • North in reply to MFarmer says:

              Well the thing is that, despite what righties say, Obama doesn’t appear to think that the state should be the primary employer in the economy. His party certainly doesn’t.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to North says:

                Romney’s about growth; Obama’s about fairness. It’s a genuine philosophical difference. And one can hedge and say both, but with growth inevitably comes unfairness: the pro-growth types are willing to live with that. Anyone who’s on about “income inequality” is simply not philosophically pro-growth.

                I’m mocking this “partisanship” business because it’s perfectly fine to have philosophical disagreements and differing values. If you’re about gay issues and “fairness” and universal health care and suspect Romney’s more likely to get us into a war, Obama’s your man without any further ado. This might make you “partisan” but it doesn’t make you a bad person or even a dishonest one. Those are your values and you should vote them.Report

              • Kim in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Letting money accumulate with risk averse people means that the money is invested in less risky endeavors, which means less growth, necessarily.
                Romney’s all about the risk-averse.Report

              • North in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Well personally I think fairness is a bit of a red herring but inequality advocates probably are onto something when they kvetch about power disparities that extreme unfairness fosters.
                Still, that strikes me as incidental. Obama’s done a tolerable job of economic stewardship (inasmuch as Presidents control the economy): no industries were nationalized, unemployment is back where it was prior to the start of his term and the stock market has flourished under his watch. Not bad considering he had to weather a historic recession.

                I mean conservatives can say he says mean things about rich people but honestly who takes that seriously other than rich people with megaphones. The dumbest thing I think I’ve ever heard Mitt say was his talk about the mere fact of his being President would cause the economy to grow. That was some dumb shit, easily as dumb as Obama’s stopping oceans rising line.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Romney’s about growth; Obama’s about fairness. It’s a genuine philosophical difference…..

                I think that (including what’s in the dot dot dot) is well said. I agree.

                I’m mocking this “partisanship” business because it’s perfectly fine to have philosophical disagreements and differing values.

                Of course it is, and nobody has said differently. That’s quite a red herring to suggest anyone has suggested philosophical disagreements and differing values are not fine. The objections to partisanship are not about that.Report

              • Scott in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:


                Don’t forget about Barry’s belief in redistribution, we can’t have fairness without redistribution.Report

              • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Scott says:

                Anybody who believes in the government collecting taxes believes in some form of redistribution, the question is just how much.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Scott says:

                Who is Barry? There is no one involved in this Presidential election who goes by Barry.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Kazzy says:

                Come on, Barry’s the guy running against Willie. (And you’ll never guess which one’s the black guy!)Report

              • MFarmer in reply to North says:

                ‘Well the thing is that, despite what righties say, Obama doesn’t appear to think that the state should be the primary employer in the economy. His party certainly doesn’t.’

                Who said anything about primary employer? Obama and Krugman and others have called for government job creation to kickstart the recovery — I’m wondering why they don’t do as Krugman suggests and go big. Many out of work Americans would welcome a large jobs program with high wages, and if the theory is right this should completely end the recession. Then we should developement a plan for government hiring that prevents recession. If the basic theory is right, then there should nev er be another recession, not if government keeps employment at the right level. But, not, I didn’t say anything about primary employer — the private sector would still employee far more workers than the government, but the government could make sure that the unemployed are put to work so they stimulate the economy rather than being a drag on it.Report

              • MFarmer in reply to North says:

                ‘Well the thing is that, despite what righties say, Obama doesn’t appear to think that the state should be the primary employer in the economy. His party certainly doesn’t.’

                Who said anything about primary employer? Obama and Krugman and others have called for government job creation to kickstart the recovery — I’m wondering why they don’t do as Krugman suggests and go big. Many out of work Americans would welcome a large jobs program with high wages, and if the theory is right this should completely end the recession. Then we should develope a plan for government hiring that prevents recession. If the basic theory is right, then there should nev er be another recession, not if government keeps employment at the right level. But, not, I didn’t say anything about primary employer — the private sector would still employee far more workers than the government, but the government could make sure that the unemployed are put to work so they stimulate the economy rather than being a drag on it.Report

              • Patrick Cahalan in reply to MFarmer says:

                I’m wondering why they don’t do as Krugman suggests and go big.

                Because it won’t pass?Report

              • Elias in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

                I’m deeply skeptical of MFarmer’s sudden turn towards what I would deem reason (i.e., I think we’re being trolled!) but assuming he’s quite sincere — and, even if he isn’t, it’s spawned a good discussion so: no foul — the problem isn’t only that it won’t pass. Or, perhaps more accurately, that’s half of a chicken-egg issue. Because (and here’s the thing a lot of the liberal-left doesn’t want to understand) the fact is that many, many, many voters are deeply opposed to Keynesianism — especially when it’s not bringing about the kind of stunning growth that characterized FDR’s first term. If Dems could trust that voters were receptive to arguments about how Big Gov’t can kick the economy in the ass and get it going, they might bother; but they can’t so they won’t.Report

              • MFarmer in reply to Elias says:

                I’m sincere about the idea, but this isn’t about me, and I’m not making it about my philosophy — I’m wondering why Obama doesn’t push the envelope and fight for what he believes in. FDR had to make things happen, he persuaded the nation to follow him. Is Obama going to give up just because he thinks it won’t pass — is he a leader or a follower? If I believed in Keynesian stimulus, and I knew it would bring about recovery, and thus create an historic legacy for my presidency, I’d be calling congress people daily attempting to work out a deal, like LBJ used to do. Obama can gain public support if he shows that he’s rising above politics to do what’s best for the nation , and if he really sells the plan. I think most Americans are desperate enough to go along with a big jobs program — if not, then Obama is going to lose. If the theory is as solid as the Left thinks it is then there should be good evidence to present with projected outcomes. What could seal it is convincing Americans that the theory will resolve recession problems, because when the economy begins to sink, government hiring can bring it back to balance — that’s the theory, and the Left either believes it or they don’t. And even if Obama is politically afraid to do it, why isn’t the Left demanding he or the senate present the plan? Are there no serious people in the political realm? Does the Left believe in its ideas or is it all talk? At least Krugman is calling for big actions, as bad I hate the guy — he at least has the conviction to put it on the line.Report

              • North in reply to Elias says:

                Well Mike, as I assume you’re well aware the consensus among economists and the reluctant position among modern Dems is that Keynesian stimulus can work to a degree but it’s not a panacea. As in it lies somewhere between the two binaries you lay out. It has explanatory and predictive power but it’s not the entire answer.Report

              • MFarmer in reply to Elias says:

                Ah yes, North, again, I’ve said nothing about Keynsianism being the total answer, so these wise admonitions are really diversions since you obviously can’t answer my questions.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Elias says:

                Keynes must be seen in the context of his times. Not even Keynes would be considered a Keynesian today. We’ve seen what the Milton Friedman types did, they had their chance. They blew up the financial system. Those who would repudiate Keynesian thought ought to remember how completely disgraced the Chicago School has become over time.

                Unless we’re talking about military and bureaucratic payrolls, there’s no such thing as a Gummint Job. While I was in Phoenix, the street intersection in front of my hotel was being repaired with stimulus money. Said so right on the sign they’d put up just behind the barrier horses. Seemed like a pretty good investment of stimulus money to me, if not to you. Keynesian economics at work.

                As for making calls and making impassioned appeals for everyone to work for the good of the nation (snicker) we know who’s tabled all such appeals and why they tabled them. There’s no rising above partisan politics with the current incarnation of the Grand Old Party.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Elias says:

                Just as Keynes wouldn’t be considered a Keynesian today, Friedman isn’t a Friedman-type as you’re using that phrase here.Report

              • Elias Isquith in reply to Elias says:

                Why wouldn’t Keynes be seen as Keynesian today? Ditto Friedman. Explain it to me like I’m 10 years old, please.


              • James Hanley in reply to Elias says:

                I’ll have to let Blaise tackle the Keynes’ one, since it’s his and I’m not sure I tumbled to it, but I’ll explain Friedman.

                Friedman’s the economist who rebutted Keynes’ fiscal policy (changing rates of taxing and spending) proposals for dealing with recessions by arguing that recessions were actually all about monetary policy–loose money led to booms, then the powers-that-be would get spooked and turn of the spigot, tightening the money supply so much there’d be a recession. He had some pretty good arguments, too, to the point that even a “notorious” Keynesian like Krugman openly agrees that monetary policy works in most cases (but he thinks certain fiscal crises, like the Great Depression and the current one, are different and need a different–i.e., a fiscal–response; hard-core monetarists, of course, disagree).

                Much of the problem that led to the current crisis was Greenspan’s tinkering with the money supply, trying to find the perfect amount to boost employment without creating inflation. So Greenspan did follow Friedman in being a staunch advocate of monetary policy.

                But here’s the key: Friedman did not countenance such continued tinkering. He actually advocated a strict regular growth of the money supply, say 3% (iirc) per year, no more no less, and don’t let humans start thinking they’re clever enough to start fudging it around on a regular basis. So he would not have been a devotee of Greenspanism.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Elias says:

                Okay, first Keynes in context. JM Keynes observed demand drives markets. As such, when markets fail, the goal is to create demand, much like a bit of ether in the carburettor can get motors to turn over.

                The first application of the ether metaphor was his cunning plan to break a logjam in currency convertibility. He got his hands on a supply of Spanish pesetas and sold them all at once, thus reinvigorating a market where hoarding had stalled it. But this clever bit of work was only a short-term fix: the larger, underlying problem was the gold standard. Keynes tried to get the British off the gold standard, making currencies convertible, not into gold but other currencies. But as with much of Keynes’ work, it was misunderstood in its own time.

                Keynes wasn’t so much an economist as a mathematician. His studies were in the field of probability and the statistics which drive probability.

                Let’s examine the stupidity which surrounds him. First, Keynes was not a deficit spender. Keynes understood supply and demand did not move in concert. The invisible hand is bunk: it’s the visible hands which stuff the dollars into the mattresses and do stupid things during wars and economic downturns. Countries which want wars ought to raise taxes to pay for them, said Keynes. Fear makes men stupid and stupidity makes them more fearful.

                But of all the fallacies surrounding him, Keynes shouldn’t get credit for influencing the outcome of the Great Depression. He wasn’t being taken seriously at the time. He would only be taken seriously after his death. Only Paul Samuelson ever really came close to explaining Keynes and like Plato with Socrates, we only see Keynes in modern times through Samuelson’s lenses.

                But Keynes had other interpreters, one particularly stupid man comes to mind, that idiot Milton Friedman, the most over-rated economist of all time. Where Keynes had understood the petty and fearful self-interest of the individual market participants, Friedman would call such fearful idiots great geniuses.

                For all of Samuelson’s work on Keynes, which continues to this day in many subsequent revisions, the pseudo-Keynesians never really got the point. They continued to bargain with the neoclassical economists. Because they were never capable of understanding Keynes’ points about the proper role for government, regulatory theory has become a pseudo-science, culminating in the emergence of the Libertarian Alan Greenspan, who would lead the world to ruin, once again.Report

              • Elias in reply to Elias says:

                Thanks, James. Quite understood. It’s funny — now it’s the liberals who are demanding aggressive monetary policy and it’s (most of the) conservatives who are going around sounding like Mellon.

                Blaise, I think you’re great; but you seem to be used to 10 year olds with much higher capacities than I’d expected… You lost me a bit at the end, but in general a lot of what (I think) you’re saying is quite unorthodox and thus in need of explanation/persuasion. Like, the idea that Keynes was irrelevant at his time? I know the New Deal was economically buoyed by some nifty monetary policy — but surely FDR’s brain trust had *heard* of Keynes when they put together the WPA, etc.

                And I’m still unclear on what Keynesians (in a very general sense, without all the Neo- post- crap) believe today that the progenitor wouldn’t recognize as his own.

                I apologize for treating y’all like professors-on-demand… but hey, that’s what we’re here for, no?Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Elias says:

                Blaise, when you call Friedman an idiot you reveal much more about yourself than about him.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Elias says:

                Elias, yes, that really is why we’re all here. And if I was clearer than BP it’s only because his kids are grown, while I have an actual ten year old still living under my roof. I’m just more in practice. 😉Report

              • Because it won’t pass?

                Because it won’t work. The main point behind employment (in the recent paradigm, anyway) is that employment adds value rather than that wages stimulate folks buying stuff. I’m pretty sure that this has been proven to the satisfaction of the Neo-Liberal Economic Cabal.Report

              • Elias Isquith in reply to Jaybird says:

                I’m pretty sure that this has been proven to the satisfaction of the Neo-Liberal Economic Cabal.

                Unless you mean anti-Keynesianism has been proven to anti-Keynesiasns, I think you’re in for a bit of a surprise…Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                Don’t see it as “anti-Keynesianism”. See it as “post-Keynesianism”.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

                What the main point behind employment (which I interpret to mean”why we want it”) is, is beside the point being made here. There’s a consensus that we want a lot of employment. How does “The reason we want employment isn’t to stimulate purchasing: it’s to add value to the economy” show that (a particular proposal to) drive an increase in employment (which we all agree we want for whatever reason) by increasing purchasing (demand) in the economy (in this case with more government spending) won’t work? It doesn’t. What you say about why we want employment is immaterial to this matter.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                There’s a consensus that we want a lot of employment.

                I’d put it like this instead, then: employment is a good in itself. We want lots of it. I’d say that homeownership is a similar kinda thing (or, until recently, it was seen as similar).

                The tools that the government had to increase home ownership (which were not insubstantial) were put to use but… there were unintended consequences.

                If we don’t understand *WHY* employment is a good and just employ government tools to increase it without understanding why it’s a good, we’re likely to run into something like the housing bubble.

                In the government’s attempt to create more of something that everyone knew was good, it actually undercut it for everybody.

                It’ll do the same for employment.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

                “In the government’s attempt to create more of something that everyone knew was good, it actually undercut it for everybody.”

                Jaybird, that’s very true.

                Employment is good. Banning mechanical farm equipment so that more laborers need to be employed is probably not good.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

                If employment is a good in itself, then there is no “why” we want it. We assume we want it, however we can get it, so long as the cost of getting it doesn’t exceed the value of the amount of it we can get. Your argument is just that this proposal will have unintended consequences and undermine (decrease) employment in the long term, even if it increases it in the short term. Fair enough – as with any assertion about unintended consequences, I can’t prove it prove correct.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

                …can’t prove it won’t prove correct, that is.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                Well, it’s more of an intuition based on induction:

                “The last X times we did this, something like Y happened. The next time we do this, Y will happen again.”

                I cannot prove it.

                You know what, though, I’d be more than happy to see some other country try it first… because, surely, some other country has.

                What happened when they tried it?Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:

                Is employment really a good in itself? In heaven we have all we need without working for it; in hell we work non-stop and have nothing to show for it.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

                I’m with you, James. I don’t think it is a good in itself. But I do think that in the system that we have, we currently need more employment for there to be maximum happiness within that system. My point was just that the reason we might want a lot of employment (within a given system) in a general sense is not implicated by the question of whether a proposal to address the short-term negative happiness effects of an immediate shortfall of employment in that system by attempting to raise employment in the short term will succeed on its terms (which I’m pretty adamant is what the word “work” in this sense means: If Jaybird had said, “Because even though it might work [raise employment in the short term], I believe it will decrease it in the long term – or have some other unintended consequence I, apart from whether the policy works on its terms, wouldn’t like to see come to pass…”). Indeed, even the objection to the proposal that it will have longer-term unintended negative effects on employment levels still doesn’t implicate the question of why do we want employment in the first place. it still just assumes we want pretty much as much of it as we can (or at least more than the amount that the proposal will result in over the long term).

                Surely the thing that a government spending program meant to increase employment means to “work” at is to increase employment in the short term. You can think that would be bad to have happen, or you can think that the kind of employment that you think would result isn’t a kind of employment you want to see increase, or you can think that it would have the negative unintended consequence of creating an employment bubble(?!), but if the thing increased employment over the short term, then it would have worked.Report

              • Troublesome Frog in reply to Jaybird says:

                Is employment really a good in itself? In heaven we have all we need without working for it; in hell we work non-stop and have nothing to show for it.

                I understand your point completely. But at the same time, heaven sounds a lot like a communist dystopia in which output is divided evenly among its citizens rather than being apportioned based on employment like it is here.

                A world where only a few of us work only a little bit to produce lots of output is great and exactly what we should be shooting for technologically. But if we get there and still insist that consumption should be based on work, it’s still not exactly heaven for the unemployed.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to Jaybird says:


                No, in my theoretical model, in heaven there is no “work,” not even among just a few. It’s a hypothetical ideal type.

                That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do. Just as my aged mother is so busy in retirement that she wonders how she ever had time to work, I imagine no dearth of non-work activities to occupy our time. In heaven is when I finally become a master carpenter, building various objects just for kicks.Report

              • North in reply to MFarmer says:

                Well your average centrist Dem (ie the driving force for the policy apparatus of the party) would observe that economics indicators of recessions are all lagging indicators. So even assuming perfect neutrality on hiring, the jobs program would kick in too late (fail to prevent a recession) and kick off too late (threaten to cause actual inflation*).

                Of course there’s the question of what these people would actually do. Infrastructure construction/repair is the popular refrain now days but the lions share of those projects are typically done at the state level, not the federal level.

                Also since from an economic standpoint hiring federal employees gives you less economic stimulative bang for your buck than, for instance, safety net spending (though considerably more than tax cuts mind) then a large permanent counter cyclical Federal jobs program would likely be a poor choice.

                With just a grain of cynicism one would add that it’s politically easy to hire people but even more politically difficult to fire ’em so that’d be another reason to avoid it. Too many vested constituencies.

                I mean if we had the Dems of say the 70’s or even 80’s they might be all over the idea but that’s just not where the party is.

                Really if the Dems and Obama had gotten what their policy ideals were it would have looked a lot like Obama’s stimulus only minus the 40% of it that was tax cuts. Those cuts pretty much an utter waste; tax cuts are poor economic stimulators in a recession and Obama’s naive preemptive concessions* never bought him even an iota of the GOP reciprocation it was supposed to earn him. So if you’re looking for what the modern Democratic Party would want to do well it would have looked like the Obama stimulus minus the rainbow stickers: Larger, less tax cuts, more Federal dollars to the states to support their infrastructure spending and to allow them to maintain their safety net payrolls.

                *Real inflation, mind, as opposed to the GOP imaginary inflation that’s been haunting us for the past four years.

                **Thought experiment: what if Obama instead of imagining what he thought the GOP wanted in exchange for their votes and giving it to them for free had actually done normal political bargaining and exchanged what they wanted for their support? Aka played politics.Report

              • Tom Van Dyke in reply to North says:

                Mr. North, the Obama question aside, who is “your average centrist Dem?”Report

              • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Speaking as a commie dem partisan hack, I get frustrated w/ North enough that I think he qualifies. 🙂Report

              • When I think centrist dem I think Tom Friedman, despite his protestations.Report

              • Save, and a beauty, by Ewiak!

                [hockey talk]

                Elias too.

                But anyone for serious, from the real world, a Democrat elected to something, that sort of thing?

                All I have on my list is Andrew Cuomo. Those mayors who spoke at the Dem convention but I don’t know their names and neither do you. Diane Feinstein’s like 85. Sandra Fluke?Report

              • I’d say he operates in the White House effectively in a center-left manner — with rhetorical gestures to a few token centrist or center-right shibboleths — but that his general inclination, and his goal when given the opportunity to push the boundaries of probability, is left but pro-market. I don’t think he and Yglesias, for example, are that different (except on the issue of manufacturing, where I think the President is simply bowing to political realities).Report

              • MFarmer in reply to Elias Isquith says:

                If the Left wants to win some battles in the next few years, they should work against an Obama victory, because if Obama wins, nothing much will happen for the Left for four years. But, if the Left works with a Romney, although I would advise against it, Romney will lead an effort to fix the controversial parts of Obamacare and eventually save it. Romney will also, more than likely, work with the Left on other issues. Obama can’t get anything done now because he’s done too much partisan damage. The Left overreached in 2008 and they mistook an historical election for a seachange in public politics on socio-economic issues that are dear to them. The public hasn’t changed politically like the Left imagined, and 2010 confirmed this — 2012 will make it crystal clear.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                I think BO is actually a centrist Democrat. If preferences on major issues and voting record is an indicator. He seems to me like he cuts right down the middle.

                The interesting thing is that you think he’s far to the left, and Jesse Ewiak probably thinks he’s far to the right.Report

              • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                As far as elected Democrats, Mark Pryor, Michael Bennett, Bill Nelson, Mary Landreiu, Max Baucus, and Mark Warner all qualify as centrist to center-right Democrats.

                But, Stillwater, that makes sense. Even throwing out our respective ideological bases, we’re both trying to move the Overton window. So, that in twenty years, either TVD sides wins and ‘electable’ Democrats sound like Mitt Romney or my side wins and ‘electable’ Republicans sound like Barack Obama (again).

                Which is why I think Obama isn’t the Democratic Reagan, but the Democratic Nixon at least when it comes to policy. Nixon basically continued liberal domestic policies, but spoke in conservative terms. Obama is doing the same thing, but vice versa.Report

              • Thx for the straight answer, Jesse. I had my doubts. I think you’ll allow the list ain’t the great. I really do look for excuses to vote for Democrats—voted Jerry Brown b/c the GOP nominee was a dilettante.

                I liked Dick Gephardt. Hillary in a pinch. Evan Bayh to me is/was the Democrats’ Romney, and far more qualified. Had he run in 2008* I have zero doubt he’d be cruising to re-election as we speak.


                *He stood down out of loyalty to Bill/Hillary. Oh well.


                OTOH, he’s only 56. If you guys don’t want him, hell, I’d take him in a minute. That Booker guy, too.Report

              • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                First, you realize Dick Gephardt and Hillary Clinton have largely the same domestic policy preferences as Obama does? Increase spending and jack tax rates on the rich to help lower inequality has been standard-issue Democratic boilerplate since FDR.

                But, the thing is, all the jokes about Al Gore’s lack of charisma are actually true about Evan Bayh. Plus, Bayh is a total shill for the health insurance companies and a deficit “hawk”, so if he would’ve somehow managed to stumble into a win, he probably would’ve done nothing major on health care and engineered a stimulus so bad it led to a worse economy all while probably never doing the small things like the proto-DREAM Act and repealing DADT that help you with your base.

                Sorry, I could deal with Mark Warner or Michael Bennett as President. Hell, I’d prefer Joe Manchin. At least he’s honest about his convictions instead of dealing in bipartisan BS. Evan Bayh is on the same ‘third party vote’ list as Cuomo.Report

              • There you have it, Jesse. I’d have voted Evan Bayh over John McCain despite his center-left “domestic policy preferences.”

                I think anyone who distrusted John McCain’s judgment as a commander-in-chief, and his judgment in general for selecting the underqualified Sarah Palin as his #2, was well-founded in their doubts about the man and for going for the Dem ticket on those grounds alone.

                Although, to return to my original question, who Bayh would have selected as his #2 would have been a factor.

                Probably that kid Obama. The Democrats would have held the presidency for 4+4+4+4= the next 16 years. Just sayin’.


              • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                No, Bayh has corporate-friendly “centrist” domestic policies.

                Nah, we’d be dealing with 10% unemployment and even bigger cuts to state budgets because Bayh likely would’ve bought into the Beltway narrative not to overspend too much and we likely would’ve had a stimulus that was 50/50 tax cuts/spending and probably only 500-600 billion dollars.

                Oh, and gays probably still wouldn’t be allowed to serve, Dodd-Frank never would’ve gotten passed, there’d be no major health care bill (after all, the First Lady would be on Wellpoint’s board), and Bayh likely would be losing by eight points to Mitt Romney with a third party run by Bernie Sanders getting 3-5%.Report

              • I hearya, Jesse, but a President Bayh wins 2 terms sez this GOPer. Still might.Report

              • MFarmer in reply to North says:

                I’m assuming then that most centrist dems disagree with Krugman regarding stimulation of demand to bring about recovery by creating any kind of job, even jobs to repair a faked foreign invasion?Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to MFarmer says:

                I’m not sure most centrist Dems understand the implications or even the details of what Krugman’s proposing. From his Manifesto for Economic Sense on

                The causes. Many policy makers insist that the crisis was caused by irresponsible public borrowing. With very few exceptions – such as Greece – this is false. Instead, the conditions for the crisis were created by excessive private sector borrowing and lending, including by over-leveraged banks. The bursting of this bubble led to large falls in output and thus in tax revenue. Today’s government deficits are a consequence of the crisis, not a cause.

                The nature of the crisis. When property bubbles burst on both sides of the Atlantic, many parts of the private sector slashed spending in an attempt to pay down past debts. This was a rational response on the part of individuals, but has proved to be collectively self-defeating, because one person’s spending is another person’s income. The result of the spending collapse has been an economic depression that has worsened the public debt.

                The appropriate response. At a time when the private sector is engaged in a collective effort to spend less, public policy should act as a stabilising force, attempting to sustain spending. At the very least, we should not be making things worse with big cuts in government spending or big increases in tax rates on ordinary people.

                The big mistake. After responding well in the first, acute phase of the crisis, policy took a wrong turn – focusing on government deficits and arguing that the public sector should attempt to reduce its debts in tandem with the private sector. Instead of playing a stabilising role, fiscal policy has ended up reinforcing the damping effects of private-sector spending cuts.Report

              • MFarmer in reply to MFarmer says:

                True, and that’s why I ask why Obama doesn’t make Krugman’s ideas accessible by putting it into a big plan to spend more on job creation so that it stabilizes the economy as Krugman says it will. Surely Krugman has a size for the stimulus in mind, and if the theory is correct, it can stabilize the economy, and if it can stabilize the economy, then it can prevent long recessiosn if implemented immediately at the first signs of recession. If I believed this to be true, and if I knew people are needlessly suffering, and if I was in a position of power, then I would fight hard to implement this and sell it with all the skill I possess. What Obama is proposing is small and ineffectual, according to Krugman, and what Obama has done hasn’t worked.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to MFarmer says:

                While nobody on the Right thinks Paul Krugman has a lick of sense and continues to mischaracterise his positions ( and those of the Democrats ), we can expect all this crapola about putting a number on the stimulus instead of meaningful reforms.

                Not one Conservative, or Libertarian for that matter, is willing to address the need for regulation to prevent yet another private sector lending crisis. Not one. This is especially egregious in the Libertarians, considering how much they rattle on about Bubbles. Any time the subject of reform comes up, all I see is the Usual Suspects running up the trees like so many terrified vervet monkeys, screaming and shit flinging and yammering about Communism.

                The discussion is pointless, really. Want a stable economy? Want capitalism to work for the benefit of everyone? Pushed to it, every so often I can get a Libertarian to grudgingly admit that’s the goal and if I really kick him hard enough and long enough, he’ll admit the need for market regulations, but no sooner do I unwrap my fists from around his neck, he goes right back to his perennial follies, still thinking the Free Market is the solution.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to MFarmer says:


                It goes back to the Fed’s loose money policy. With a tighter money, there’s not enough loose cash to create a bubble.* No new regulation needed. Yes, I know you think we’re all deceiving ourselves, and spinning in circles to avoid the “R” word, but simply put, we think you’re wrong. You call us hypocrites; I say you still don’t understand us as well as you think you do.
                * The loose money policy was understandable, because the Fed was trying to stimulate job creation in a jobless recovery. But it had this little unintended side effect of creating a real estate bubble…Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to MFarmer says:

                No it doesn’t. It comes down to the government’s loose regulatory policy.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to MFarmer says:

                The problem, James, is that Libertarians don’t understand multivariate calculus. The equations of flight and those of economics are not very different: thrust, drag, rates of climb, stall speed and the like, all well-defined equations. Nothing to argue with: either an economy is creating demand or it isn’t. Thus the plane flies straight and level, when the fundamentals are in balance.

                The only way to recover from a stall — now I can’t oblige anyone to go out and learn this for themselves, it’s part of pilot training — is not to add power but to put the plane into a nose-down attitude, so enough air can get over the wings to generate lift. Only when the plane has enough forward momentum can the pilot pull back on the yoke and regain control of the aircraft. Counterintuitive, to be sure, but that’s what must be done.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to MFarmer says:

                It is true, I suppose, that after you’ve dug long enough, you aren’t digging a hole anymore; now you’re digging a tunnel to China. And, obviously, the problem stops being “you’re in a hole”, and is now that you’re way behind schedule and the answer is to dig harder.Report

              • MFarmer in reply to MFarmer says:

                Why so much evasion?Report

              • MFarmer in reply to MFarmer says:

                Why aren’t liberals fighting for what they believe in rather than whining about conservatives and libertarians?Report

              • James Hanley in reply to MFarmer says:

                Blaise, that’s a lot of fancy talk, but I’m going to stick to learning my economics from economists who can show me they’ve really studied the topic, not software consultants with lots of impressionistic ideas. When it comes to economics you’re wel into Dunning-Kruger territory.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to North says:


                Re: the fiscal effect of stimulus.

                “Fiscal stimuli based upon tax cuts are more likely to increase growth than those based upon spending increases”
                “Large Changes in Fiscal Policy: Taxes Versus Spending,” Alberto F. Alesina, Silvia Ardagna. NBER Working Paper No. 15438

                “Tax cuts, especially temporary ones, and fiscal relief to the states are likely to create fewer jobs than direct increases in government purchases. However, because there is a limit on how much government investment can be carried out efficiently in a short time frame, and because tax cuts and state relief can be implemented quickly, they are crucial elements of any package aimed at easing economic distress quickly.”
                “The Job Impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan,” C. Romer and J. Bernstein. “Biden Report.”

                Neither the whole word nor the last word, so not intended to be an irrefutable knock-out punch of an argument. But it does suggest there’s considerably less certainty about the minimal stimulus effect of tax cuts than you seem to suggest.Report

              • North in reply to James Hanley says:

                I know there’s debate about it and Lord(Lady?) knows I’m no economist but I thought the weak consensus was that however stimulative tax cuts are (and they’re stimulative to some degree or another) that in a recession environment they’re less stimulative than actual spending.Report

              • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

                Honestly, I don’t think that’s really a consensus. Although there might be a difference if we’re talking about the short run or the long run. It also matters whether we’re talking about temporary tax cuts (about which there is something approaching consensus that they’re not very stimulating) or permanent ones (because consumers respond differently, as suggested by Friedman’s permanent income hypothesis).

                I do think certain economists have a vested interest in persuading the public that there’s consensus about it.Report

          • North in reply to MFarmer says:

            Unfortunately for infinitely many more it’s almost entirely about the candidates.Report

          • Jeff No-Last-Name in reply to MFarmer says:

            Good of you to realize the tribalism involved (for a lot of people not just you and Tom?See also partisan above.Report

  8. North says:

    Digby’s post works for me.

    Obama of course was pretty much forced into this role once he decided during the primaries that he wanted to win. Had he not embraced the fantasies wholesale then it’s most likely that Hillary would have defeated him since she sort of owned the workhorse President mantle at the time (though it’s not guaranteed considering Mark Penn’s execrable incompetence). It was Obama’s soaring newness that threw his opponents off balance and led to his primary victory and of course once you start down that soaring path you can’t really hop off of it without a concrete reason so it was inevitable that he would be stuck with it for the actual presidency fight and then be stuck trying to govern according to it until the GOP beat him bloody with it and he was finally absolved enough to re-rise like a bloody phoenix in his present incarnation.

    Not a pleasant path, I agree, but a necessary one if he wanted to be president in 2008. Otherwise he’d likely have ended up VP or something else and who knows how things would have unfolded.Report