The Second Clinton?

On the one hand, last week’s Volcker-fest signaled that the Obama administration wants to get tough on Wall Street. Given that they almost certainly don’t have the votes in the Senate (and probably not the House, either), this may have been a purely political calculation, and it remains to be seen how much substance lies behind the marketing. But even so it was probably smart politics, since it forces Republicans to either go along (which ain’t gonna happen) or come out in favor of hedge funds and proprietary trading.

On the other hand, what the —-? The New York Times reports that Obama is planning to call for a three-year freeze on non-security discretionary spending, which means everything except Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, the Defense Department, Homeland Security, and the VA–that is, everything except the vast majority of the budget. This at a time when the unemployment rate is at 10%.

Ezra Klein describes what is likely to go wrong here.

“The administration will target worthless programs, like agricultural subsidies, in order to preserve good programs. But the reason worthless programs live in budget after budget is they have powerful backers. And those backers will rush to Congress to protect their profits. . . .

“Now you’ve removed some of the cuts, but you still want to hit the overall target. So the cuts could get reapportioned to hit programs that lack powerful constituencies. Many of those programs help the poor.”

Brad DeLong, who is usually more sympathetic to the administration than I, calls it “Dingbat Kabuki,” and then he really gets going:

“This is a perfect example of fundamental unseriousness: rather than make proposals that will actually tackle the long-term deficit–either through future tax increases triggered by excessive deficits or through future entitlement spending caps triggered by excessive deficits–come up with a proposal that does short-term harm to the economy without tackling the deficit in any serious and significant way.”

To me, it sounds like Obama has decided to imitate Bill Clinton, except that he’s going to skip 1994 and jump right to 1995-1996–the years that gave us welfare reform and the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, among other things. Deficit reduction is a classic “Third Way” policy, but by doing it this way Obama is ceding ground to the government-haters (who just want to cut spending) without getting anything (future tax increases, or votes for health care reform) in return. As DeLong says, “it would be one thing to offer a short-term discretionary spending freeze (or long-run entitlement caps) in return for fifteen Republican senators signing on to revenue enhancement triggers. It’s quite another to negotiate against yourself and in addition attack employment in the short term.”

Presumably Volckerama was about attracting the base, and this is about appealing to independents who care about the deficit because . . . well, because they always care about the deficit. I’ve said before that the Obama administration hasn’t gotten the credit it deserves for being serious about our long-term debt problem, and I’m sure they’re frustrated about what happened to the right solution (health care reform). But this feels like they’ve given up on real solutions and are just trying to score points.

Update: The usually understated Mark Thoma thinks along similar lines (in uncharacteristically not understated tones):

“We get cheap political tricks that are likely to backfire. How will this look, for example, if there’s a double dip recession, or if unemployment follows the dismal path that the administration itself has forecast?

“This seems to be a case of the former Clinton people in the administration trying to relive their glory days instead of realizing that those days are gone, the world is different now and it calls for different solutions.

“I wasn’t in favor of having so many Clinton administration people in this administration, and nothing so far has caused me to change that assessment. They’re nothing but trouble.”

Update 2: I really meant it when I said that the administration hasn’t gotten enough credit for the deficit-reducing efforts it put into health care reform. Peter Orszag is trying to make that case publicly: “The bottom line is the bill that is currently on the Senate floor contains more cost containment and delivery system reforms in its current form than any bill that has ever been considered on the Senate floor period.”

Brad DeLong’s post linking to that article is titled, “Why Aren’t Deficit Hawks Telling the House to Pass the Senate Health Care Bill?

By James Kwak

143 responses to “The Second Clinton?

  1. You seem to be assuming that Obama is serious about any of his proposals, as opposed to simply flailing in response to Shays’ Rebellion last week.

    Another explanation is that Team Obama looked at the polls and discovered there are like half a dozen things people are pissed about (deficit, health care, banker bonuses, banker bailouts, unemployment, etc). So Obama’s response is to talk about all of them and to do nothing about any of them.

    Even I was momentarily excited about the Volcker thing, until I realized it is all theater. That is all this President is capable of, so there is no more reason for frustration than there is for hope. None of it is serious.

  2. What about despair? Think that’s appropriate yet? ;-)

  3. Well you seem like a really nice guy. We will welcome you to our WPA work unit. Hope you do the same. Once the smoke clears there probably won’t be very much work for lawyers.

  4. Not all independents are chomping at the bit for the return of Bill Clinton. Especially ones who saw their jobs and benefits traded to Canada under NAFTA. Not all independents are Libertarian/Republicans masquerading as independents. Some were Democrats at one time.

    I think Mark Thoma is right that Clinton-omics would not work again, anyway, even if the strategy were politically viable. Could the housing bubble be re-blown?

    http://thedailybite.wordpress.com/2010/01/22/bill-clinton-1994-redux-wont-be-fooled-again/

  5. Seems to me like the administration is going through a bit of a tonal reboot. Populism is the flavor of the month, and a spending freeze that starts in 2012 is a pretty straightforward way of announcing to angry voters – not wonks – that the administration really is serious about the deficit. (If it eases the nerves of bondholders, that’s not a bad thing either, I suppose.)

    After all, it’s not just frustrating that voters don’t realize that Obama is serious about the debt, it’s also politically damaging. Which is bad for the long-term debt problem. So if the administration needs to make a largely symbolic gesture to prove its seriousness to the general public, and that gesture makes it easier for the administration to enact measures that really do address the long-term debt, I can live with.

    The gimmickry is annoying but I’m not sure I get the despair coming from the left. If it creates sufficient cover to pass the health care bill, and gives the administration credibility among voters while the Dems still have a congressional majority, it will have indirectly done far more to address the debt than it possibly could on its own dubious merits alone.

    (On the other hand, I reserve the right to retract everything I’ve said if Obama doesn’t come out swinging Wednesday night. Or if the administration actually does regard this as a serious attempt at controlling the deficit.)

  6. James,
    You know that I hesitate to say this, because there are few bloggers (or just knowledgeable people in general) who I respect more than you and Mark Thoma. To disagree with you 2 guys who I have great respect for is not something I do without a 3rd or 4th thought. But aren’t you two missing the REAL culprit here??? I think it is the extremely cowardly and woman of zero substance Nancy Pelosi who is the TRUE culprit here. Not the people in the White House. The woman needs more than a couple testicles, she needs a strong drink and a moral compass. Unfortunately of the 3 (testicles, strong drink, moral compass) the last item is the one we know she’ll never have.

  7. In the words of Hillary Clinton, “What didn’t you like about the Clinton Administration, the peace or the prosperity?”

  8. Obama promised transformational change. Bill Clinton gave us peace, prosperity and a balance budget. Now THAT sounds like transfromational change to me. Please stop comparing Obama to Bill Clinton. Obama doesn’t have a clue with respect to what he’s doing. I’m not sure Obama even knows who he, himself, really is–just read his books.

  9. I know this is WAY off topic, but did anyone see the latest piece of genius from the WSJ??? You know, the comparison of Jay Leno and Adolph Hitler??? I wanted to make sure this didn’t escape anyone’s attention who feels linking to their blogs is a good idea. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/25/lenoconan-and-world-war-i_n_435548.html

  10. I think that ALL the editorial staff at the WSJ must be VERY VERY proud of themselves. Oh well, it’s not like Jay Leno works at FOX, so they’ll all still have their jobs tomorrow.

  11. Here is a place to start to understand the despair coming from the ‘left.’

    http://www.bedlamfarm.com/blog/2010/01/23/last-days-of-a-dairy-barn-when-heroes-fall/

    If Obama chooses a Clinton solution now, then he will not be able to blame Pelosi for that. And we cannot kid ourselves that he can misdirect big money interests with rhetoric while secretly carrying on with a noble agenda.

    Think of how Clinton ended up and what came next. I really believe that will happen faster this time, (one term), and what will come next gives me chills.

  12. “Obama has decided to imitate Bill Clinton, except that he’s going to skip 1994 and jump right to 1995-1996″

    Well, sure. After all, he has to work on an accelerated schedule given that he’s just assured himself of being the first African-American one term president.

  13. One more thing, Senator Richard Durbin is now on Bernanke’s team now. So I’m afraid Yves Smith’s little revolution is now officially dead.

  14. Think of that.
    So far Obama has been The Great Black Issue Dodger. He has
    no position on the war or most other issues of concern to voters.
    The US public is way to the left of him on the war and socialized
    medicine and many other issues. Many of his black constituents
    haven’t seen him since he was elected two years ago.
    Since when are the old establishment farts on Lehrer our experts
    on interpreting elections ? Washington just mindlessly recycles
    the lowest of the lowgrade establishment nonsense to attempt
    to minimize the progressive victory and more importantly the big
    conservative defeat. After that appalling column pushing race based
    identity politics nothing from Laura Washington’s pen surprises me.
    What’s next, ITT ? Tom Sowell or Clarence Thomas ?
    Stephanie Mcnealy

  15. Ian McCracken

    I like this site but I am so tired of the constant Clinton bashing. Sure he wasn’t perfect but his Presidency resulted in very strong economic growth, highest employment in decades, income increases across the board, budget surpluses etc. Welfare reform was overdue and he passed the family leave act. I think signing the Brady Bill, scandals in the democratic house leadership and a very apathetic public caused the ’94 congressional losses more than anything else.

    Clinton’s ’93 budget paved the way for the subsequent budget surplus and increased taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Clinton’s two first years were undeniably a very progressive agenda including failed healthcare reform, energy taxes, lifting the ban on gays in the military etc. I would argue that after the ’94 mid terms he had no choice but to swing to the right. There was too much focus on Wall St but the rest of the economy was thriving and except for tech stocks there was no huge asset bubble.

    I would also argue that if we had elected Hillary things would be going a lot better now (she had so much political and legislative experience + Bill). It is blindingly obvious that Obama is learning on the job – his lack of experience was always a huge worry to me. I do not know what is going to happen now but I am very concerned – like most people I guess.

    So PLEASE, let’s lay off the Clinton bashing…what was so wrong with his two terms?????

  16. I’ve said before that the Obama administration hasn’t gotten the credit it deserves for being serious about our long-term debt problem.

    Well, I’ve always given he-of-the-bailouts, permanent war, and ever-bloating Pentagon budgets exactly the credit I feel he deserves.

    I’m sure they’re frustrated about what happened to the right solution (health care reform).

    They’re frustrated at what they wrought?

    Of course, judging by his actions from Day One, Obama got exactly the bill he always wanted.

    To me, it sounds like Obama has decided to imitate Bill Clinton, except that he’s going to skip 1994 and jump right to 1995-1996–the years that gave us welfare reform and the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, among other things.

    They’re evidently not planning to skip the ’94 election. NAFTA-boy Rahm in particular must be wistful for those good ole’ days.

  17. Hillary, go to bed, big day tomorrow.

  18. “On the one hand, last week’s Volcker-fest signaled that the Obama administration wants to get tough on Wall Street. Given that they almost certainly don’t have the votes in the Senate (and probably not the House, either), this may have been a purely political calculation, and it remains to be seen how much substance lies behind the marketing.”

    There is no substance behind the marketing. Anyone who reads the White House’s background briefing can appreciate that the administration is still deluded enough to think that TBTF is a problem that exists in the future.

    http://ftalphaville.ft.com/blog/2010/01/25/133431/the-background-to-the-volcker-rule/

    An excerpt:

    “It’s designed to make sure that we don’t end up with a system that some other countries have in the world, in which there’s enormous concentration in their financial sector. So it’s designed to constrain future growth. It’s not about reducing liabilities within — the share within the existing structure.”

    The administration does not want to change anything. It just wants credit for changing it.

  19. Maritza Reneau

    Nemo, you,re right on target. Plus, they are already making up excuses trying to blame Clinton. What an irresponsible and inept government Obama heads. He is all talk and photo-ops but no substance

  20. curious steve

    let’s get the history right first, before we pile more history on top of false history.

    karl rove is bill clinton’s best protege, in that they have completely eraised what thin line that used to exist before between DNC and GOP.

    obama is the baby of the previous era, as much as gwb was, the era of corporate fascism.

    sooner than later, there will be three parties: progressive, libertarian, and corporate-fascist.

  21. As Jackie Calmes writes, this isn’t a real plan to control the deficit but a “symbolic” one:

    [O]ne administration official said that limiting the much smaller discretionary domestic budget would have larger symbolic value. That spending includes lawmakers’ earmarks for parochial projects, and only when the public believes such perceived waste is being wrung out will they be willing to consider reductions in popular entitlement programs, the official said. “By helping to create a new atmosphere of fiscal discipline, it can actually also feed into debates over other components of the budget,” the official said, briefing reporters on the condition of anonymity

    http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2010/01/barack-herbert-hoover-obama.html

  22. Izvestia says these cuts are all to set up the play to loot Social Security. Since that’s what the financial class supported Brand Obama to do, this should not surprise anyone.

  23. The “right solution” on health care? Given that the lives of peasants are involved, the “right solution” is something that can be shown to save lives and money, like single payer (if you’re a centrist) or a national health service (if you’re on the left). Supporting the profit margins oligopolies by making failure to buy junk insurance a federal crime cannot be demonstrated to save lives or money, and that’s the solution on offer. It is not “right.”

  24. The reason no one is fighting for the Senate Health Care Bill is because its a piece of crap. Obama promised to not make getting Health Insurance mandatory (one of the reasons i chose him over Hillary), he promised a public option, and the fact the we can’t reimport generic drugs is just ridiculous. This bill does more damage than good. It doesn’t make insurance universally available it just forces people to buy imsurance. It even says in the bill your could do jail time and pay steep fines for not getting health insurance. This bill is a great win for the Insurance companies who wrote it. This does nothing to help the average American. This bill is just more of the same crap, not CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN!!!!

  25. I think that Obama’s fundamental problem is that he cannot do anything alone. During the election, it was fine to make speeches and talk up all kinds of things, but when he got to DC he needed to equip himself with several dozen other people, not to mention negotiate everything with Congress. He was naive to think all these people would just go along with him, no matter how pursuasively he spoke. He also was effective smothered int he DC bubble and no longer understands the state of the country

    Now, a year later, he’s realized you can’t govern by making a big, inspiring campaign speech and expecting everyone else to step up and keep the momentum going. He’s in the midst of a rude awakening, and his wild ADD is proof of it.

    If he doesn’t figure ASAP out who he is, what he stands for, and who he’s willing to piss off, he’s a Carter, not a Clinton.

  26. mountainaires

    “Just Words”

    Obama Campaigned Against Spending Freeze

    YouTube: No less than four times during the presidential debates did President Obama actively campaign against an across the board spending freeze. The spending freeze was John McCain’s proposal. Obama rejected it.
    ***
    ABC News: In his budget for Fiscal Year 2011, to be presented on Monday, February 1, President Obama will propose a three-year hard freeze on non-security discretionary spending, to last from 2011 through 2013.

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2010/01/26/obama_campaigned_against_spending_freeze.html

  27. Barack Obama = Herbert Hoover

  28. Chair Manfred

    Clinton’s temporary prosperity laid the foundation for all our current disasters: China trade, NAFTA, WTO, the internet stock bubble, financial deregulation, etc. Clinton only killed 600,000 Iraqi children because Republicans wouldn’t let him invade Iraq. Deregulation and structural imbalances paved the way for the current deficits. Bill pals around with the Bushes because they were on the same team.

  29. As Hilary said “…..he made a goos speech.” I suspect that’s about all Obama is capable of. He lost health care, he has backpeddeled on transparency and now he is truning to conservatism just as Clinton did.
    One term medocre president!

  30. Detroit yesterday, the US government tomorrow: the government really needs to rethink what is “non-discretionary spending”, and think more in terms of “unsustainable spending”. I would say “WE really need to rethink….”, but the US government seems so unresponsive to the needs of most (read: non-wealthy) Americans.

  31. The last administration had an ignorant somewhat malicious fool at it’s head, who was manipulated and coached by his VP and his entourage in seriously bad directions.
    After amply demonstrating all that, the Bush regime was returned to office with a much better margin than before.

    This administration is headed by a well educated, well meaning bright guy who has been “captured” by the problems and forces of the office, and is being coached and guided by vested interests, in less than optimal directions.

    That’s at least some progress.

  32. Could you folks wait until the details are announced before you go all Emily Littella on us???

  33. BARRYBEFUDLESME

    as a lukewarm obamaite i have to say:

    WTF…..were does this advance anything?

    if its tactics, what it the ultimate prize? is he gonna lead with freeze and close with HC reform? wow…what a long meandering path to that result. and i frankly think there is too many moving parts at this stage for bait and switch.

    didn’t he just say he’d be happy to be a consequential one term president? is this something history will record?

    i can not understand obama except in the vernacular of disorganized thinker……translate to incompetent executive

  34. See reply by Chair Manfred above.

  35. How can Obama do anything with the present minority rule. The Repubs have said no to everything, deliberately filibustering to slow things down and obstruct, and his own party blue dogs are a disgrace.
    Tom Friedman wrote of an ungovernable nation resulting in sub-optimal solutions due to the current filibuster rules and a splintered populace.

    Obama may have lost his way in trying to get something rather than nothing but the lack of support from his own party is what will ultimately doom his Presidency.
    How about calling Congress demanding an end to the minority rule?
    How about remembering that Obama has to clean up the Bush mess before he can have his own agenda?
    How about calling for a renewal of the Fainess Doctrine to help quiet the right wing media who have been stabbing him in the back every step of the way,
    misinforming the public on grave issues.
    How about calling out the Republicans for bringing government to a halt?
    How about demanding more from the
    DNC- like a real leader- bring back Howard Dean.
    Keep bashing Obama and the real deterrants to progress will go unresolved.

  36. I knew Obama’s strategy of trying to ‘heal the Democrats’ was going to fail because the Clintons were just as corrupt and greedy as the Republicans.

    People thought they could finally get away from the 2-party racket by putting somebody completely new and different.

    He still has a chance to get rid of the Clintons and go back to his original promises and become a true ‘centrist’ by ending the wars in Iraq and Afganistan and get rid of extreme ‘green’ policies by going nuclear fussion to re-industrialize our economy.

    You can’t say: “Clinton would’ve done it better” because the Clintons are running the ‘Obama show’.

    Everybody in his cabinet is Clinton folks, including Hillary herself.

  37. Now we are at the point where everything Obama does is wrong by definition.

    For God’s sake – let this guy run the government. We elected him. Let him do what he thinks best. He has been in the job only ONE YEAR!

    Just remember back to the enormous purposeful damage Bush and Cheney did to your contry – then shut up.

    Bill

  38. I think everyone here is missing the point. This is not an “across the board spending freeze”. However, this will alllow the president to sweep through the budget line by line and remove inefficient programs while CONTINUING to spend on programs that, in teh view of the administration, will improve the economy.

    Why does anyone see this as a bad thing is beyond me.

  39. There are valid comparisons to Clinton era, specifically the timid Congressional leadership and the wilting in the face of opposition. That said, that was a much different political climate than today. Clinton was a Democratic President in a conservative era. He did what he had to do. Think about Nixon. Same thing in reverse.

    My only problem with Clinton now is his former acolytes (like Summers and Rahm) who are bringing a 90′s sensibility to a different era with different problems. Too cautious, too pragmatic.

    This moves give the perception that Obama himself has no solid economic convictions, and this weaving all over the road is evidence of the economic civil war within his own administration. Yesterday he threw a bone to Volcker, today, he tossed one to Geithner.

    Not to pile on, but IMO Obama needs a new White House COS.

  40. Funny how not having 60 votes in the Senate never stopped George Bush from getting everything he wanted. Quit making excuses for this idiot of a president–who pre-compromises with the right on every occasion. He has a large majority in Congress, HAD a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Bill Clinton never had that.

  41. They buy the once in a hundred year scenario (as the bank chieftans said at the Congressional hearing) and think the sky is falling rhetoric is something that will have to be dealt with, if at all, once Global Warming has fully set in and we’re all under the ocean anyhow.

  42. Yeah, and their policies will be indistinguishable.

  43. Did the major banks help elect Obama so they could gain a republican majority so they would not have to worry about Wall Street regulations again?

  44. Why wouldn’t Obama start by asking the “moderate” democrats to volunteer cuts in their pet projects
    (farm subsidies, etc.). Let’s them walk the walk first and the rest will follow…

  45. To be fair, and I’m no Clinton apologist, he was more or less forced into conservatism when repubs took power later in his presidency. That said, Clinton was still a corporatist president whose role in the Gramm, Leech, Bliley act was a major reason for our current recession.

  46. Dr. Kwak, President Obama cares more about optics than “putting Country first”.

    In his SOTU speech tomorrow evening, will President not only address the major issues rhetorically but actually come out and act on those proposals.

    Will the President demonstrate leadership, stand on his principles, and put forth compelling arguments and solutions – is that asking too much of the job as President of the United States… where’s that “I feel your pain” garbage to the millions still out of work….or should that be better directed at Wall Street.

    President Obama has taken ownership of the economy but has taken some of the idea’s out of Bill Clinton’s presidential playbook and renamed it the Obama Triangulation; on healthcare (bailing out the healthcare insurance industry), financial reform (channeling the bailout needs of Wall Street through Treasury Secretary Geithner and Mr. Bernanke), reducing the national debt mostly on the backs of working people, etc.

    Will someone tell President Obama that some of the solutions aren’t that complicated (falling into a similar trap as Hillary did under her husband’s administration) – such as, expand Medicare for All since the system is already established and for the most part, successful; and with an aging population, that would seem to make the most sense.

    If you have a job at sustainable wages (employed or self-employed), you will contribute to a growing economy (GDP). If you have a job, you can contribute toward healthcare access and costs…..if you have a job, you can increase state and federal revenue coffers…..if you have a job, you can also help bring down the deficit. . If you have a job, you can mostly support yourself (and your family) without state and federal assistance.

    One more note about President Obama’s recent lack of credibility: Last Thursday, President Obama was railing about the SC’s ruling on political campaign contributions by corporations and unions: however, there is a way to free the Constitution from the hypocrisy of the SCOTUS (their supposed loathing of judicial activism) and get the country back to the founders’ original interpretation of “Free Speech” (http://freespeechforpeople.org/learn-more. The dismantling started with equating money with “free speech.” And, the irony being, that President Obama’s 2008 presidential bid was funded disproportionately by special interest monies (http://bit.ly/85iAOn).

  47. Double-down on that. Yeah, how has the deregulation of banks, media, drugs, insurance, nat. resources, military contractors gone for us?…

    They have established monopolies, now they are entrenching them.

    Our slogan should be Re-regulate EVERYTHING. (We’ll sort it out later.)

  48. Clinton in 1994-95?

    Are you referring to when the Republicans controlled Congress and Gingrich said Clinton was irrelevant?

    The reason there are so many former Clinton people in the Obama administration is they’re the only Democrats with prior experience. Most of the Carter appointees are retired and the Johnson people died of old age.

    Clinton was the only Democratic President to serve two full terms since FDR. Not only did we have peace and prosperity, but most of that prosperity went to the lower and middle class.

    Obama is not Bill Clinton. He’s Herbert Hoover.

  49. I’m for despair. This seems like a continuation of the Obama policy of caving to the Republicans on every issue of importance, and caving w/out even putting up a fight.
    Closing Gitmo…maybe not ever. Transparency…uh-uh. Giving the Military everything they want plus two wars with no end in site…you betcha. Climate change legislation…not so much. Bank reform…don’t hold your breath.
    And now the Hooverization of economic policy?…what recession?
    Never, ever have I been so disappointed and despairing of an administration. And it all started with so much promise. I mean, after the last clowns, what could possibly be worse? Stay tuned!

  50. I loved what you said. Buy locale support locale farmers..Corporations are killing us

  51. Just a piece of observation from across the pond here, the much derided National Health Service in the UK, was launched into the teeth of an equally fierce debate and in a deeply impoverished postwar Britain. It may be far from perfect,it may be(as the largest employer in the country) desperately in need of some serious reform – we have tried market economics and target setting – devolved responsibility as well as Central planning, but by and large it works and is a major plank of any civilised society. Having lived in the US and been ill, I watched as the hospital extracted my Blue Cross Blue Shield card just in case I could not pay. I would argue that healthcare reform is vital. For God sake’s even Cuba has decent healthcare! NO I am not a socialist or apologist for them, but the vitriol that comes out of this debate mystifies most Europeans- it is a worthwhile social good, PERIOD. Your collective wisdom would IMO be better spent in influencing a positive outcome. Deficit reduction is also an essential – in short you have to restore “sound money” in the US and hence shore up creaking bond markets, we sure as hell have too in the UK as we are deeper in the mire than most with a venal and exhausted Government, happily soon to be consigned to history. As for the Volcker rule, if John Reed(ex Citibank and part architect of the Citigroup behemoth) can see it what part of TBTF do people NOT understand?

  52. “doing it this way Obama is ceding ground to the government-haters (who just want to cut spending) without getting anything (future tax increases, or votes for health care reform)”

    It is out of control spending that got us here, and your solution is more tax increases? 11 trillion in debt, 4.8 trillion in interest? Are you aware that sovereign debt is going to be a world wide problem soon and that China (who everyone pins their hopes on) is in trouble now?

    We aren’t anti-government, we are anti spending like drunken sailors then going to the public for yet more taxes and raising debt levels until the economy collapses. There are no restraints on government spending because the natural course of Democracies (not Republics) is too expand relentlessly, they eventually collapse under their own weight. You can’t spend your way out of a recession and you can’t live beyond your means indefinitely. The solution to overspending isn’t more taxation, would you tell your kid that he went over budget, then give him more? Totally irresponsible.

  53. Question for Obama—-

    If THESE obviously corrupt people have your “strongest support” then what does that tell us about your administration??

    FEDGATE—-

    http://www.zerohedge.com/article/federal-reserve-moral-hazard-smoking-gun-august-2008-goldman-was-willing-tear-aig-derivative

  54. Spot on !!!

    Some public posturing of limited actual import is inevitable in running an effective Presidency.

    Posturing should not be confused with actual laws and policies of relevance.

  55. Check Mate!

  56. Un-funded Wars, Medicare Advantage, Tax cuts, and Homeland Security-Bush’s legacy.
    Cutting taxes and going ape sh.. on spending is a wise policy, is that your contention? These Repubs are not your dads.

  57. History repeats that a CENTRIST president is favored by most Americans, which (I presume) is why Obama fluctuates so much. As a radical leftist I detest centrism but as a historian one can see his motives.

    The trick for him is to STILL achieve progressive accomplishments as a trade-off for ridiculous-appearing rightward actions. He simply needs better PR which, sadly, is the key to political success in our media-driven reality.

    The immense truth is that Obama can do very little to fix problems he’s inherited from Reagan and the rest of the corporate-minion presidents and Congresses.

  58. thats exactly what obamas gonna say in his memoir about his one-term legacy, “it was all Clinton’s fault”.

  59. Praedor Atrebates

    Most ineffective President in modern history! Obama has his place in the history books down there with Grover Cleveland, Herbert Hoover, etc.

    Hopiness and changiness goodness!

  60. How can you say the president is caving to republicans and that’s all he’s done? He’s done nothing but ignore them and the democrats have the majority. Don’t want to vote for health care, oh well we’ll shove it through with 60 votes anyway. What happened to bipartisanship there? He’s not catering to republicans; he sees that people don’t like his policies and they voted for a republican to help stop him.

    Stop blaming the other side for problems inherit in the party. Both parties have created their own problems.

  61. I, too, was momentarily taken aback by the Volcker noise. I have noticed we’re getting less of the adulation in the press for this can’t do president, thank god. Now, the press needs to hold his feet to the fire to live up to the so far empty rhetoric. We’ve been going from one destructive presidency to another for how long now?

  62. “President to turn focus to economy”.

    Oh dear, you mean he has done all this damage without even concentrating?

    The truth that the mainstream press does not dare utter is that the electoral reversals have produced, not a thoughtful and honest reappraisal of the economy, but a “Desperation” facet that portends more danger, not less, to the country; we are entering the “desperation mode” of President Obama.

    The President is now switching to Hugo Chavez’s ‘populists methods to stay in power; demonize and punish the most unpopular sectors of the economy, regardless of the damage it may cause the country, its economy, and the American people, who at the end of the sorry tale will pay for it.

    Penalizing Banks, Insurance companies, and “freezing certain” spending (as implausible as it will turn out to be) does not amount to a hill of beans of an economic policy. It is amazing that Summers, Romer, and Geithner still show their faces around Washington.

    Unless Obama acts on the popular list: “10 Actions President Obama Must Take to Save His Presidency” at….

    http://www.robbingamerica.blogspot.com

    The country is entering a dangerous “Obama Desperation Mode”.

  63. If the American public is way to the left of Obama then why are there any republicans in office and why is Obama having trouble passing bills?

  64. STOP with the Jesse Jackson-esque speeches!!!

    America has had enough TALK~~~ Go sell it somewhere else!!

    This is what we want, nowwwwwww—

    1. THE BANKS. Break them up.
    2. GLASS-STEGALL–Bring it back!
    3. FULL AUDIT OF THE FED
    4. BRING JOBS BACK TO AMERICA–

    We have watched you pack your administration with most of the Wall Street and FED criminals that caused this crisis to happen, in effect–”doing the same old thing, with the same old people– We just don’t understand HOW YOU WERE EXPECTING DIFFERENT RESULTS MR. OBAMA!!

    I voted for you, and feel like the biggest fool in the world!! Talk about the biggest bait and switch of all time.

    STOP THE EMPTY TALK AND CLEAN HOUSE!!

  65. The depleted uranium poisoning on Yugoslavia. The bubble of fake prosperity mixed with NAFTA/free trade destruction of REAL jobs, not dot com pipe dreams. Or how about him signing Gramm, Leech, Bliley which led directly to where we rot today.

    Now he pals around with the Bush/Carlyle thugs. Get over your blindness.

  66. Obama is nothing but a republican a$$ kisser just like pelosi was for bush. Democrats are weak and stupid. Must be hereditary

  67. 1. Even to this day Republicans still can’t do anything Democrats don’t allow them to do.

    But the Dems sure seem to want to change that.

    2. How exactly did any Dem in Congress force Obama to:

    - Appoint Summers, Geithner, and Rahm?

    - Continue with the Bailout?

    - Not arrest and indict the criminals of Wall Street?

    - Continue and escalate the Permanent War?

    - Fail to indict Bush’s war criminals?

    - Escalate the assault on civil liberties?

    - Escalate the Cheney agendas of secrecy and the imperial presidency?

    - Not have demanded single payer from the bully pulpit and in his dealings with Congress?

    I could go on. There’s lots of others. Who forced Obama to do any of that other than Obama?

    3. I counterattack Obama because he’s not only a deterrent to progress but a traitorous enemy of it. He’s a corporatist reactionary.

  68. Really, it seems out of place to blame the administration. The real problem is the electorate — an American public that believes the TV that screams at them that they don’t really want better insurance, don’t want better public services, and don’t want to pay any more taxes. Those who thought that the Internet and Blogging were somehow going to change the political landscape were dreaming, because reaching people with reasonable arguments requires them to READ and THINK. The majority of Americans are functionally, politically, and intellectually illiterate — and too stressed and busy trying to make do with the new reality of declining wages and minimal public support to change.

    That is the reality that Obama confronts — how to explain the complicated stuff that needs to happen to fix the country’s problems to people who can’t / won’t listen and can’t / won’t understand.

  69. This voter backlash is REAL, I just dont understand why it took so long, and why the streets of DC and The financial district aren’t FILLED with protesters daily!

    If you would have told us a few years ago that we would be witnessing the greatest transfer of wealth in history from the middle class to the financial elite and our government would do nothing but enable the crime, I would have told you to take off your tin foil hat. NOW, I am putting mine on, buying gold and silver, and completely distrustful of my government.

    We are not in Kansas anymore. I am truly afraid for our future, because we have allowed our entire economy to be hijacked. It is now one giant PONZI scheme, and the people are waking up to that.

    ACTION, not talk, and not gimmicks. That is what we demand.

  70. OBAMA DISAPPOINTING US ALL

    President Obama is coming perilously close to squandering the deluge of goodwill that ushered him into office. The best thing going for him as president is his credibility and promise for change. If he loses that, he loses everything—and will be seen as just another politician. How can such an intelligent man allow the many current problems of credibility (mostly self-inflicted)—after such a beautiful campaign? Will he be so willing to disappoint his ardent supporters, especially these idealistic young people who helped to make his Presidency possible? Will we in the end come to conclude that the “beautiful one” is not yet born? “Man may be a little lower than angels” (Judge Leaned Hand), but he can aspire to be principled and honest. That has been the beauty and power of Obama’s campaign! As Wilheim Liebknecht emphasized: “Principle is indivisible. It is either wholly kept or wholly sacrificed. The slightest concession on matters of principle infers the abandonment of principle.” How could Obama so readily abandon principle in favor of expediency? Yet, principle had seemed to be the very essence of his appeal, campaign and power? Democrats know how to present the right ideas; but they often fail, because of their own contradictions, to govern well, to their detriment! Gradually, Obama’s credibility is chipping away. If he will not recognize this, let him think of 2010 and 2012–and what has emboldened his political adversaries. Oh, “What experience and history teach us is that people and government never have leaned anything from it,” bemoaned Georg Wilheim Hegel. What Obama presented us during his great campaign was a reason to hope again and a program of change. As Mazzini informed us about the success of a program of change, “its development must be confined to men who are believers in it, and emancipated from every tie or connection with any principle of an opposite nature.” That means no lobbyists, no tax evaders, no naysayers, and no opposite Republican economic ideals of the last eight years that is largely responsible for the present economic malaise!
    Dr. Sam

  71. Where is your faith coming from?!?!?!?! I have been given no reason to believe that he will not bow to the corporations and not freeze the programs that affect them. He will only be left with programs that affect middle class and poor who do not hold the power to garner a seat at the baragaining table. YOU ARE THE ONE MISSING THE POINT!

  72. Thank you, anonymous. Buy Local. Support Local Farmers. Support your local small businesses. Everyone should stop shopping at big name stores and buying name brand items and clothes. This is the ONLY way to fight back against the MULTI-NATIONAL CORPORATIONS who are taking the money OUT OF the United States. START TODAY.

  73. engineer27,

    you’ve described the omnipresent root of the problem, although I’d not say the majority is iilliterate. Lack of critical thinking produces, for example, the new senator from Massachusetts, thus jeopardizing Obama’s theoretically progressive agenda.

    Amazingly, although every last bit of info on every possible political subject is available to the public, knee-jerk reaction still prevails! Too many Americans approach politics emotionally rather than rationally.

  74. GEITHNER and BERNANKE need to do this president a favor and STEP DOWN.

    How can this administration expect to be taken seriously with these proven theives and Wall Street operatives at the helm of policy??

    How this isnt as plain as day to Obama is mind boggling. Bringing back Elizabeth Warren and Volker after he has spent the last 8 months kicking them to the curb HAS ZERO CREDIBILITY!!

    We are watching what you DO Mr. Obama—not what you SAY.

  75. This list represents subpar intellect about why we are where we are today…

    Wear a tie? Obama must wear a tie to save his presidency?!?!?!

    Really?

  76. Can you say NAFTA?

  77. Michael,
    I agree that both parties have there problems…thanks for stating the obvious. But the idea of cutting spending during a recession is a distinctly Republican idea, although they never seem to cut spending, other than social well being programs. McCain campaigned on this deeply flawed concept and had his head handed to him.
    The last president to try this was, yup, Herbert Hoover, that paragon of Republican philosophy and you might recall what happened with that idea…certainly your grandparents will.

  78. It’s jobs; no it’s the deficit; no it’s healthcare; no it’s AFPAK; no it’s the middleclass; no it’s the goddamn banks; no it’s liberalism; no it’s socialism; no it’s the nobel peace prize; no it’s cap and trade; no it’s the backroom deals; no it’s transparency; no it’s the unions; no it’s corruption; no it’s take back our country; no it’s too much foreign aid; no it’s the speeches; no it’s his wife’s garden on the white house grounds; no it’s trials to be held in NYC; no it’s ACORN; no it’s free speech; no it’s the Democrats; no it’s the Republicans; no it’s Greenspan; no it’s Bernanke. No it’s YOU damn it, you don’t know what the hell you want. How do you lead a herd of cats? With a scatter gun.

  79. Laurence Malsky

    In the case of healthcare reform, the $700 million in lobbying by the insurance industry might have something to do with it. Also the lockstep obstructionism of Republicans.

  80. Answering your two questions in order:
    FOX News, and the Democrats are a bunch of cowardly wimps.

  81. All this noise is remarkable. Even assumming that the President were to achieve his vision of restraining a portion of the Federal budget, the resulting Federal budgets will generate exceptionally large deficits for the next many years. This will be regarded as the golden era of deficit spending.

  82. Bush got everything he wanted through pure fear-mongering and scare tactics. He gutted the first, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eight, ninth, and tenth amendments, wiped his tail with the Constitution, left us with this massive crisis and handed the first bailout to the banksters. ALL on fear.

    Please don’t point to him as the way Obama should be doing things. Fear causes stupid decisions.

  83. We’ll have another dim-witted hick in there as soon as all the FOX “News” fans get the chance to vote again. Don’t get too comfy.

  84. Clinton without the results, maybe. Clinton without the “feeling your pain” thing “he cares about people like me.” going for him.

  85. Gilley is right. You think things would be better with Hillary? Give me a break. Obama’s got the Clinton finance team in place, why do you think it would have been different for Hillary? She’s as much a corporatist as Bill.

    It’s time for new parties in the US. The extreme right is doing that with the TeaParty. Progressives need to do the same because Dems and Repubs are essentially the same party now, the Corporate party.

  86. All talk and very little action, just as many had feared.

    There were such high hopes that this presidency would usher in a drastic change from the status quo. So far, this presidency is a fraud on the millions of voters who voted for change.

  87. Took power?? WHAT power? After the election this was the most disempowered Republican party since the Depression! Obama had the widest mandate of any President in modern history… and what did he DO with it? Pissed it away–all the Republicans had to do was mop it up! Took power, my as–he GAVE it away.

  88. We have become a nation of whiners…

    There is hard work to be done to get back on track and no one is really willing to sacrafice anything. It may have been better to let the ecomony melt down and start all over. If no one truly understands the difficulty in governing in this society, they are sleepwalking. Granted our President and this administration has it’s flaws, but my goodness they are trying. The executive branch doesn’t have the luxury of just going at things unilaterally…there is a legislative body that is a co-equal from a Constitutional standpoint and so it can be painful to move things forward. The problem is most Americans want to reset the clock back to the good times in really what amounts to a blink of the eye. In fact, it will be painful to regain our footing. If you believe in our President stay strong and provide some support…as opposed to complaining about everything you see that’s not going the way you plan at the moment.

  89. FrustratedDemInNH

    As a lifelong democrat I can only agree (it is, after all, what we do.)

  90. Hilary may be a corporatist, but my guess is she would have appointed a fresh team, not wanting to give Bill the perceived or actual fingers-in-pie his old buddies would have afforded. As for new parties, I’m all in favor of a splinter-group of angry tea-baggers siphoning off the republican base, and ensuring permanent wilderness status for both.

    For the Dems, not so much. Didn’t Nader do something like that?

  91. It was the Bush administration that spent like drunken sailors. They inherited a projected 5.6 Trillion budget surplus and then more than doubled the national debt from 5T to 11T.

    Tax cuts for the wealthy, medicare part D, and the Iraqi war, all w/o a way to pay for it, accelerated the national debt (They allowed PAYGO to expire and voted against all amendments to re-instate it).

    On top of this, conservative policies of deregulation, and not seriously addressing the housing bubble as it was happening led to the economy on the verge of disaster.

    Where were the tea baggers complaining about spending then?

    This is what President Obama inherited, as well as 700,000 jobs lost per month, and a projected 1.2 Trillion deficit for FY 2009 BEFORE he took office,

    All of you hypocrite whiners here need to be part of the solution and put your country before your party.

    We need answers not obstructionist opportunism.

  92. Obama’s brilliance in the primary campaign was his patience and carefully thought out strategy.

    Coming into the White House with multiple crises and wars, I’d say he’s performed moderately well. I am disppointed at the lack of health care legislation, though.

    We, the American people, and progressives especially, need to learn a little of patience, if we are ever going to re-build our country in a sustainable manner.

    Please, spend your energy standing *for* something rather than defaming the first progressive president we’ve had since 8 years of bush.

    One of the weaknesses of the progressive community is that we do not rally around our shared causes and leaders as effectively as conservatives do. Remeber how conservatives defended Bush for years even as the Iraq war tanked?? It’s to this that I account a lot of the disappointments of Obama’s first year.

  93. “FrustratedDeminNH”? Really? Not a republican black-ops sockpuppet?

    If you are truly any kind of Dem, frustrated or not, buck up! Pull yourself together!

  94. I disagree with this. If the kernel of what Geithner and Bernanke were attempting to do can be said to reside in the events of September 2008, including specifically the TARP debate and legislation, let’s remember that it was John McCain that expressed some tepid dissension while Barack Obama was entirely in favor. These guys are doing exactly what the President wants done, so why dump on them? Do you believe for a second that the President did not want the “stress tests” to be performed as was done? Do you think that the re-re-bailout of GMAC was against his wishes? Do you believe that resisting FOIA disclosures on Maiden Lane(s) is being done against the President’s will? How about uncapping Fannie/Freddie? You think Sec. Geithner just took a flyer on that without getting his boss’ okay? I don’t.

  95. Three cheers for Hoobama!

  96. Your formulation prompts me to ask, what’s the point of being mediocre for a single-term presidency? As Devil notes, Clinton didn’t have the luxury of 59 senate votes, sometimes. Carter showed what one does if one is destined to be one-term. Call on people to be better than they are, instead of playing them to be worse than they are. At very least, Obama should use is oratorical gifts to shame all those politicians and pundits who resort to the easy lie. Instead, he’s gonna cut Social Security, because that’s what a “serious person” would do.

  97. Get a grip: the Majority Leader SERVES the President, she does not command the President. Pelosi’s done as effective a job as can be expected when the President cuts the ground out from under her every other day by his constant waffling! To wit: last week, in response to the loss of the seat in Mass., all we heard about was his deathbed conversion to populism: he was going to create jobs, and save the middle class. This week he’s moving on… to a spending freeze! THIS is what the despair is about: our leader is not leading. Or, perhaps more accurately, he’s leading in so many directions at once, we’re going nowhere. “Lead, follow or get out of the way” remains the bottom line–and Obama’s not doing ANY OF THE ABOVE!

  98. Hope less.

  99. Micheal, you need to learn to distinguish between political spin and reality. The GOP push-back crowd simply denies that Obama has offered them room in political debate, though he has, call him a lefty though there is little evidence for that in his agenda. Did he nationalize banks when thoughtful economists said he should? No. Is there a serious effort at mortgage cramdown? No. Has he called for letting all of the Bush “temporary” tax cuts expire? No. Democrats have the majority and have managed to do very little with it. The Baucus mob included a higher proportion of Republicans than in the Senate as a whole, and some of them admitted to audiences that they saw their job in that group as pure obstruction. Health care didn’t get passed before Brown was elected partly because a whole summer was spent pussyfooting in that committee. Let’s stick to reality here.

  100. Ian McCracken

    You must be joking! What a load of codswallop. I will grant you that the sanctions on Iraq were terrible but the number of deaths as a result are disputed. At least it was UN sanctioned. The illegal Bush invasion is a true war crime by comparison.
    As for Clinton and Wall St – the GOP/Gramm repeal was signed into law in Nov ’99 – one year before Clinton left office. Say what you like but the only asset bubble during his term was tech stocks.

  101. Ian McCracken

    Come on… NAFTA should have included better environmental and labor laws but how many jobs do you think have been lost to Mexico as compared to China in the last 10 yrs?

  102. I really wish people would stop talking about the “60 vote majority.” To do so is incredibly simple minded.

    The Democrats never had one. The party is a loose coalition of people whose only common denominator is “not-GOP.” The party ranges from Bernie Sanders to Ben Nelson for crissake. If nothing else, they count Lieberman in the 60, which they never should have.

    The GOP does a much better job of whipping their people into line, so they appear as a unified front. The fact they have 40 people who will vote as a block MAKES them the largest voting force in the Senate, because the Dems are actually about 3 blocks of 18 plus a bunch of outliers.

    So let’s just stop all the talk about a “fillibuster proof majority” because it never existed.

  103. “There are none so blind as those who WILL NOT see.” To all the Obama apologists out there, WAKE UP! I was a devoted Obama voter and campaigner… but time is running out for the “look at the mess he inherited” excuse–and all the other rationalizations as well. This is not a President who has not had TIME to do all he promised–he demonstrates with every passing week HE DOESN’T HAVE THE WILL! “Why?” is the only meaningful question: does he not have the guts? Is he addicted winning over everyone–even those that hate him? Did he have a sudden change of heart after election day… or was he conning us all along, just to become class president?? Who knows… but in the end it’s immaterial. We need to find PLAN B, because THIS President is not the leader we hoped for: THIS President looks like he’s going for the Herbert Hoover Lifetime Achievement Award!

  104. Engineer27,

    You are SPOT ON!

    The FAUX News anti-intellectual and anti-American party before country propaganda, along with hate wing radio have served to create a ill-informed, angry, and reactionary highly vocal minority.

    The compliant “Lib-rul media” gives boths sides a voice without correcting the record when pundits lie and distort, further muddying the the truth.

    Black and white is quicker and easier to understand than shades of grey. Complicated issues need detailed solutions that take a level of time and effort to understand; of which many Americans don’t invest.

  105. Steve S,

    I think this president is doing a great job considering what he inherited and despite the ignorant public eating at the trough of the conservative corporate media.

  106. Think of the disparate voters for Obama and ask “Why did they do it?” Because everyone saw Obama as a personal, even emotional, vessel “for change.” The problem is that change means different things to different people so he’s never going to create satisfaction.

    I say he has to simply TRY to do what is best for the country ACCORDING TO WHAT MIGHT SUCCEED BASED ON HISTORY. Be the pragmatist he is — as one who cares about the middle-to-lower classes (his own past).

    As he told Diane Sawyer, if he fails, “…since his main job is not to get re-elected,” at least he tried.

    The outcome of the dastardly Reagan Revolution is complete: America’s classes will drop by at least one level — forever. It happens to all great powers that get drunk on hubris and pursuit of endless wealth.

    The daily hubbub, including at this website, is a reflection of anger at the inevitable, sad decline of our country. Look at the extant economic numbers then add in the insanity re future unfunded Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, et al and tell me how it’ll all work out.

    Don’t blame Obama as the heir to years of irresponsibility and greed from politicians and in-denial voters.

  107. Agoraphobic Kleptomaniac

    I don’t think that’s a rallying cry i can get behind, “At least he didn’t suspend habeus corpus!” I voted for many items that Obama supported explicitly, not Obama himself. If he’d just stop directly contradicting his election platform, i’d be easier on him, but he keeps doing 180° flips, as opposed to, say, 30° political recalculations.

  108. I suspect that Obama knows he prefers the pansy approach and picked Rahm to be a counter force. Well , he really does have a voter rebellion on his hands as I see it. Time to intelligently pander. He can choose to be down, dirty and politically effective. Politically, he will be forced to emulate Marshall Field’s business rule. ” Give the lady what she wants”. He does that or he will be another one term President with a bible thumper smiley face.

    In any event, circumstances this time will settle the real nature of the voter rebellion at primary time. Obama, must be ahead of that curve to be seen as viable. He must be more dissembling and meaner than FDR. Look at FDR’s pursuit of Andrew Mellon and Samuel Insull. These were two failed prosecutions but they served FDR well at the time. Obama needs perp walks ( They need not stick just break the big shot) and downright heat on the big shot bankers. He needs to be as politically crude as Richard J Daley ever was. Tailored to the time and voter objective , of course. That political objective is the middle 10% swing vote of early 2010. This is the Coakley lesson.

  109. I sent this. I do not know how it became anonymous.

  110. The liberated fems will probably want some guy that was a chippnedale dancer, or a nude centerfold in a girls magazine.

    Just kidding, of course – we operate at far too high a level for anything like that to happen…

  111. I think the oddest thing about it is why is military spending off limits.

  112. Without in any way disagreeing with you, I have to say that, if the past year has proven one thing, it is that arguments like “this is how they do it in Europe” and “people have better healthcare in Cuba” guarantee political failure in the US. You have to know your audience to persuade it.

  113. It’s not odd-many, many people make boatloads of money from the military. Usually the same ones who claim government spending is bad, some possibly from this board.

  114. This makes sense. My biggest complaint about the President is that he has clearly decided how to proceed on the biggest question his administration is likely to face, which is the tremendous insolvency situation of much of the USA’s (and world’s) financial system resulting from the collapse of unsustainable debt linked to bubble real estate prices. I would be in a much better frame of mind if he simply said that he was taking our money and handing it around to AIG to give to Deutsche Bank, or to Fannie so that their debt stays at par value and that he feels sorry for CITI (for example) and doesn’t want them to actually have to report their balance sheet assets for what the world knows them to be worth. This could be the best policy, but then why not just brutally say so? “I am taking your money because I can and giving it to well-connected others because if I don’t they will really kick up a s**t-storm.”

  115. Politics requires compromise outside of totalitarian regimes – and at some level, even then. And a compromise nearly always moves any interested party away from their ideal state – at least in their mind. Are we to label everything done politically simply an expediency? Also, I think Dr. Sam ought to think about the division of power within our system. When you vote for a President, it is possible that you will get a Congress that shares his/her priorities, but that doesn’t make the President the leader of the Congress.

  116. to be the second Clinton he must have brain….m-m-m

  117. Chair Manfred

    Can you say most favored nation trade status for China? After campaigning against it? Remember when Walmart had little American flags on the junk it sold?

  118. Here’s Why The Discretionary Spending Freeze Is A Joke – http://ow.ly/10J9q and http://ow.ly/10JRG for other insights.

  119. By now we have to admit to ourselves that Obama was a phony.

    But McCain would have been even worse. There was no good choice at the last election. For some decades now, there have been no real differences between Republicans and Democrats.

    I know nobody believes a 3rd party can win. Even Theodore Roosevelt failed with his Bull Moose Party despite being immensely popular.

    But I really see no other option save a coup by some enlightened dictator. We really have to try. We must draft people like Simon Johnson, James Kwak or Yves Smith to create a third party.

  120. Anyone starting to wonder what a Clinton administration would be doing now? Healthcare would have been a harder fight, presumably, but perhaps some Bush I, II comparisons with Clinton I might help in the media wars.

    But then again, in November 2008 I thought Obama had the media mastered.

  121. Thanks for the delusional histrionics.

  122. Indeed: see my earlier comment: http://baselinescenario.com/2010/01/26/the-second-clinton/?replytocom=40745#comment-40721
    Of course, there is a precedent for unitary Executive action — the prior administration. One might think that Americans have had enough of that sort of abuse of the Constitution — but one might also be wrong. To make it happen, Reid and Pelosi would have to morph into Tom Delay, promising overwhelming punitive action on any member who steps out of line.

    Is that the kind of republic we want? Maybe. Obama originally set out to “change the tone” in Washington, which in his mind meant getting back to Constitutional principles and running the government as the Founders intended. He is discovering that Americans either no longer want that sort of government, or perhaps cannot be trusted with such a participatory democracy. The kind of participation required is outside the ken of too many of us.

  123. I think the little American flags were made in China then too.

  124. I consider myself a Progressive Independent, someone for both Social AND Fiscal Responsibility.

    Obama has been horrendous. I voted for him reluctantly, and I will not vote for him again – I don’t care what happens between now and 2012.

    In order to understand what we are facing, I just keep two thing in mind: (1) A group of adolescents scheming to maintain power, and deceive and weaken others, and (2) Follow the money – money talks, money wins.

  125. ” I’m not sure Obama even knows who he, himself, really is”

    The guy’s just an actor, who’s just adopted whatever stage persona advanced his career to become president. For Obama, policy was just incidental to becoming president. Now he’s just living his dream, which is to be persident

  126. JerryJ,
    I agree with you on the Rahm Emanuel “tough guy” theory. I think the problem is the bullying behind closed doors only works so long, then after Summers and Geithner showed they just want to play footsie with the bankers, , and like 8 months of Republican obstruction, the Congressman tell Rahm Emanuel to take his little act and shove it.

    They are kind of re-adjusting things now because of Massachusetts, which looks like weakness because IT IS weakness. I think they are putting WAY WAY WAY too much weight on the meaning of the Massachusetts vote. You have a Democrat candidate who spent a large part of the campaign on vacation, when Coakley shook people’s hands she had this look on her face like “Ickey!!!” and she wanted to wipe her hands off on her pants, and an electorate in a state that has 98% of their residents already covered by healthcare. Hey big surprise: The handsome guy with the pick-up truck schtick actually acted like he wanted the race–and he one!!! SHOCKER!!!!

    I think if you want to know what’s going on here Jerry you should read about this Davis Plouffe guy and the editorial he wrote in the Washington Post.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/22/AR2010012204216.html

  127. DAVID PLOUFFE not Davis. Anyway there’s nothing they can do if Nancy Pelosi and the House Dems are afraid of their own shadow.

  128. Here, here, let’s get a four way split, so everyone can vote for someone they truly agree with, and get some coalition building going on in congress. According to James Q Wilson, in the real world people’s political preferences are broken down as follows:

    1) “Pure Liberals” (about 17 % of the population): Liberal on both economic policy and personal conduct. They want the government to reduce economic inequality, regulate business, tax the rich heavily, cure the (presumably economic causes of crime; allow abortions, protect the rights of the accused, and gurarantee the broadest possible freedoms of speech and press.

    2) “Pure Conservatives” (about 28% of the populaton): Conservative on both economic and conduct issues. They want the government to cut back on the welfare state, allow the market to allocate goods and services, keep taxes low; lock up criminals; and curb forms of conduct they regard as antisocial.

    3) “Libertarians” (about 21% of the population): Conservative on economic matters and liberal on social ones. They want a small, weak government – one that has little control over either the economy or the personal lives of citizens.

    4) “Populists” (about 24% of the population): Liberal on economic matters and conservative on social ones. They want a government that will reduce economic inequality and control business, but they also want it to regulate personal conduct, lock up criminals, and permit school prayer.

    So right now, Pure Conservatives (aka Republicans) have someone to vote for that they agree with on both social and economic issues. And Pure Liberals can find people in both the Green party and the Democratic Party who share their views, but alas the Populists and the Libertarians (a total of 45% of the population) have to make hard choices – vote Republican and get someone who agrees with them on half of the issues they care about, or vote Democrat and get someone who agrees with them on the other half of the issues they care about. No wonder so many people call themselves independent – or have given up voting altogether.

    Maybe we will get very very lucky and the Greens will siphon off of the massively dissatisfied Pure Liberals from Obama and the Democratic Party, and the Teabaggers will siphon off all of the massively dissatisfied Libertarians away from the Republican Party. Then we would have four parties composed of internally coherent groups of people.

    I dream of course, but if Europe can have minority parties, why not us? I would think that a voting block in congress of pure libertarians would get more of their agenda addressed than the same number of voters dispersed powerlessly through the Republican and Democratic parties. That way they would be a swing vote: voting with the Democrats on social issues (yes to gay marriage) and with the Republicans on economic issues (no to more money for the department of education).

  129. Thanks, Ted K. I read Plouffe and he is spot on with what swing voting independents desire. Right now though I am most interested in the behind the scenes smoke filled room stuff Obama must engage in successfully to satisfy swing voter desires.

    Right now, the political objective is to stop swing voters from swinging to an anti incumbent decision and retain the base of his electoral support.

    I might be a typical person in the 5-10 % swing vote group. I lost a great deal of money in the debacle although not a single investment went broke. All are paying dividends. I
    did lose one position due to a sovereign fund buyout at a price well below book. A very solid book. So, I am hopping mad about it. On the other hand, my trade is interfacing with government. I am supposed to sell government people that our view is the more correct view.

    What I an having difficulty putting together is a conclusion about the Obama Administrations real political skills. Right now, I suspect that those skills are there but that the administration lakes Chutzpah. That and being much to fastidious to politic in a mobocracy.

    Passing meaningful health care requires getting discipline to pass the act and wheeler dealing across the aisle too. He must make some of his party toe his line.

    At the same time, the administration is required to address the political theatre wrought by voter angst. The bonuses , for example, are horsedump in cases where the government was redeemed out. Aggravating but now moot if one buys the private corporation angle of the free marketers. If you hold the opposite view that the bonuses are a grave threat to public policy , that is even more aggravating. The political theatre is the irreconcilable difference. The Obama Administration is literally defined by mass more or less equal irreconcilable political differences. That means the administration wins by holding it’s own and taking 5 %- 10% from the other side . The struggle is for those marginal votes. Obama must get his party and some others in Congress to understand that they survive by doing what the populace wants but they must choose sides. Obama must see the narrow political solution as being his main shot at success. Then make it stick.

    It is the mechanics I am looking at now . We will see tomorrow night if he has grasped political realities. Then he must make it happen. Above all voters want put up or shut up. Putting up politically can be devilishly complicated.

  130. Someone please read “Nemesis” by Chalmers Johnson and tell me why the military budget shouldn’t be cut by at least 30%. There are 730 military bases outside of the US in 130 countries, which is why Al-Quida is still anxious to cut our throats (that is, asside from our arming of the Hisbullah to kill off the Russians and then abandoning Afghanistan immediately after the Russians did). The military budget is the largest and, by far, the most useless part of the national deficit. And, furthermore, now is not the time to be tackling the budget, when revenues are falling dramatically and natural outflow is necessary to keep the economy afloat. Perhaps future tax increases tied to the deficit, starting, say, about five years from now. And banning all earmarks of any kind. And making the intelligent decision to quit messing with Afghanistan, which is just another military-industrial boondogle, like Vietnam.

    If Obama wants to get serious about the deficit, the surest way is to develop programs to restore the tax base. Otherwise he’s just whistling in the dark.

  131. “the Majority Leader SERVES the President”

    Yikes. Congress most certainly does not serve the president.

  132. Engie217,
    Old School works, as Bush, Delay, Cheney ad nauseum well knew. Dems in the past such as the master, LBJ, Rayburn, and others were arm-twisters who got things done.

    The Dems can play (Obie) good cop vs. bad cop (Pelosi/Reid) if they want; no more touchie-feelie, which the Republicants have never played.

    I take Obie at his word about being “a good one-termer” rather than a suck-up two termer. We’ll see his stance tonight.

    I agree that, as you imply, Americans need very strong leadership. Which country doesn’t?

    History repeatedly shows that in times of duress people crave strong leaders who kick ass. That’s exactly why Bush did so much (damage in his case) in his time. He acted out being a forceful leader (a father figure?) and the people sucked in for it.

    Too bad things are so visceral for us “thinking, superior” Americans, but that’s history!

  133. Bayard,
    Congresspeople won’t cut the Pentagon budget because it provides jobs and contributions in their districts.

    Even Bush the cretin tried to kill the F-22 — but local Senators stopped him.

  134. Not just make money in the ownership/executive sense. If you cut spending on military you will cut many jobs, technical jobs. This is not a reason to keep spending here, but it will lead to job losses. Politicians from states with these jobs will fight for them (read: Dems and Repubs).

  135. $700 billion per is ALOT of jobs..

    Every year they create a new plateu of spending-which more and more people latch onto. Of course, this is not counting the billions of pure graft that was lost in Iraq. Any one here want to share their ‘government spending’ with the rest of us?.. Anyone?..

    Yep…

  136. SHOT TO THE LOINS!

  137. In 1992, Clinton also promised us transformational change. “The Man From Hope,” HillaryCare, and all that other happy horse[EXPLETIVE DELETED].

    Clinton got the centrist religion, as it were, only after a wakeup call in November 1994.

    Even so, Fatass spent 1995 getting smacked around by congressional Republicans. He would have been a one-term President but for the Oklahoma City bombings, which really exposed the nut-fringe, and a listless Republican opponent in the form of Bob Dole. (Just as Reagan might have been a one-term President, had the Democrats picked anyone but Mondale/Ferraro.)

    After winning the 1996 elections, Clinton still faced Republican majorities in both houses of Congress. Since he was by then a lame duck and a pragmatist concerned with his legacy, deficit cutting and financial circuses reform became the new orders of the day. These had not been concerns earlier.

    The economy had turned by that point and the .com boom was in full swing. That and the Lewinsky Fiasco defined the Clinton Presidency in the popular imagination.

    But let’s not forget that Clinton was late to the centrist party, and only came because his other options were shut off.

  138. I read Volcker-Fest as: “the people want us to be seen ‘getting tough’ on Wall Street, so we will present ‘bold action’ and make sure we are seen to be ‘doing something’ until the attention of the public is distracted by something else, at which Obama will drop it.”

    Of course, what the public really wants is for things to be “normal” again, which means for the year 2006 to come back. Full employment, booming stock and real estate markets, easy money and easy credit, stores full of shoppers and cheap stuff.

    That is probably what Obama wants as well, albeit in a slightly more progressive and politcally correct form, with right-thinking people in charge.

  139. I have had bad experiences with the NHS, but by and large, the national healthcare systems in Europe work. They have occasional failures, such as the Great French AIDS Test Fiasco or the NHS in general, but the systems continue mostly to do what they are intended to.

    Any debate about them concerns fine-tuning or reform.
    The existence of the systems themselves is about as controversial as the existence of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

    The problem with getting healthcare reform in the U.S. today is that, while there is a widespread desire for change, there are extremely well-connected, well-financed lobbies with huge stakes in the current system.

    For instance, the AMA, the insurance industry, the trial bar, the pharma companies, the unions, are not opposed to healthcare reform per se, so long as their piece of the action is not harmed. And of course, citizens who do have adequate health insurance want no rationing, lower prices, and free choice of doctors.

    There is no way any reform can keep all of these interests happy. So the status quo continues.

    When national health came to the UK, France, etc., there was much less money at stake, and hence much less entrenchment. Health insurance was in its infancy; pharmaceutical manfacture was not carried out on Wall Street; ambulance chasers were not serious candidates for national office; unions did not run lucrative health plans; medicine was not a sure way to get rich, and so forth.

  140. Really? So, for instance, Obama was forced to re-re-bailout GMAC and AIG?

  141. Hope its just coincidence that this news was announced the day after the State of the Union address.

    http://uwnews.org/article.asp?articleID=55294

    Jan. 28, 2010 | Arts and Humanities | Campus
    Students recreate story of Great Depression that transformed Washington