Thursday, November 11, 2010

How’s That Audacity Thing Working Out for Ya?

Now that Obama has initiated Phase II of his presidency with yet another craven retreat—this time on the Bush tax cuts—perhaps we should take a look at this remarkable aspect of his personality. Normally I am a knee-jerk structuralist, assigning nearly all effectivity to economic, political and social conditions and virtually none to the individual traits of leaders, but in this case I think personality rises in significance. On every issue that has marked Phase I, including health care, stimulus, financial reform and climate change, Obama has given ground without a fight. The issues left off his agenda, such as labor law reform and global public finance (like financial transaction taxes), echo loudly in their silence.

To put it bluntly, Obama may be the most risk-averse president we have had in decades. He is pathologically risk averse. His fear of losing a congressional vote has utterly paralyzed his agenda, just as his fear of being surprised by some detail of an appointee’s background has caused unprecedented delays in staffing his administration. He has kept silent during congressional debates in which vital interests were at stake, for fear of being rebuffed even by a few words in the language of a bill.

Like most Obama-watchers, I was not surprised by his centrist politics; he advertised them honestly during his primary and general election campaigns. What has baffled me, however, is how someone whose political career seemed to be painted in bold, even audacious, strokes could, on reaching his promised land, turn so timid.

Over the next two years there is absolutely no chance that legislation to the left of John Boehner’s right pinkie will get through congress. Unless Obama is willing to fight for a losing cause, he will have no causes at all. What then?


TheTrucker said...

The Next president of the Unites States will be a Republican. And if we had a centrist or left leaning judiciary that would probably be OK. As far as Obama is concerned here is my latest diary at Daily Kos.

daysareokay said...

I think we are all getting so rapidly sick of this trait that he may not run for re-election. He doesn't seem to enjoy the job.

exec4848 said...

They might still get something done in the lame duck session if they could find some stones.

Here's an idea I saw over on Huffington Post to pass a public option via reconcilliation. Ok, zero chance...but something like this would at least show a little courage.

TheTrucker said...

They should pass a tax bill in the lame duck session that stops the cuts to the rich while keeping the cuts for the middle class. The reason that is important is that such a bill can only be passed in the lame duck session. A Medicare Buy In is supported by 65% of the people. Because that bill is not a revenue bill it can originate in the Senate and the Republicans can commit suicide in the House if they wish.

But this is not going to happen. The United States of America has just been finished off by the Republicans. There will be nothing but corporate rule henceforth.

The bright spot may be the FED. The FED can conduct any monetary policy that it sees fit and as it is currently doing. So maybe the FED, instead of buying T-Bills, can buy junked cars or toll roads and toll bridges, or high speed rail lines. And all the while, be shooting the bird at Boehner. If the Supreme court can take over the elected government as it has, then maybe the FED, backed by the Democrats can give them a run for their money.

Joe said...

The Trucker needs to study what happened in the 1970's when taxes were raised to "pay off" deficits. Deficits didn't get paid and the economy shrank, three double-dip recessions between 1969-1981. Those ignorant of economic history cannot avoid advocating policies that historically failed.

TheTrucker said...

I think it is JOE that needs to actually look at the data of the 1970's. ALL OF IT as opposed to cherry picking. But I am glad to see you pick 1969 as 1965-66 was the maiden voyage of the "tax cuts" stupidity. The Kennedy and Johnson tax cuts were fully enacted in 1965, but the Vietnam war and the War on Poverty juiced the economy. Inflation BEGINS with the combo pizza of tax cuts and wars. As the wars ended and the troops came home there was also that nasty old oil problem. Yes, there were a lot of failed policies in the 60's and 70's. Sadly, they were not failures of increased taxation of extreme ordinary income. The opposite seems to be the case.

I will give you a credit on capital gains tax rates in that these were increased WITHOUT INCREASING THE RATE ON ORDINARY INCOME. It is the difference between the two rates that spurs investment.

James said...

I find it difficult to take this economics blog seriously when I see an advertisement for a book titled "Free Trade Doesn't Work" on the right side of the page.

TheTrucker said...


If you don't like "Free Trade Doesn't Work" then "The Seven Innocent Frauds of Economic Policy" -- Mosler, will really give you the hives.

The definition of "works" or "doesn't work" depends on whether or not your socioeconomic class benefits or loses. Free trade works wonderfully for the financier class, the gambler class, and the owner class. For the middle class, if sucks.

Xerographica said...

If tax payers were allowed to vote with their taxes then how much tax revenue would public healthcare generate? What percentage of the population would this revenue cover? How much revenue would the private healthcare industry lose?