Put away childish things, President Obama said during his inauguration. He couldn't have found a theme more suited to the moment. The preoccupations that he and most politicians are used to running on, and that still characterize too many of his administration's utterances, are being exposed in the global economic disaster as the soppy indulgences they always were.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
In a passage from his 2006 book, "The Audacity of Hope," [Obama] sounds like a Republican complaining about the stimulus. "Genuine bipartisanship," he wrote, "assumes an honest process of give-and-take, and that the quality of the compromise is measured by how well it serves some agreed-upon goal, whether better schools or lower deficits. This in turn assumes that the majority will be constrained -- by an exacting press corps and ultimately an informed electorate -- to negotiate in good faith.
"If these conditions do not hold -- if nobody outside Washington is really paying attention to the substance of the bill, if the true costs . . . are buried in phony accounting and understated by a trillion dollars or so -- the majority party can begin every negotiation by asking for 100% of what it wants, go on to concede 10%, and then accuse any member of the minority party who fails to support this 'compromise' of being 'obstructionist.'
"For the minority party in such circumstances, 'bipartisanship' comes to mean getting chronically steamrolled, although individual senators may enjoy certain political rewards by consistently going along with the majority and hence gaining a reputation for being 'moderate' or 'centrist.'"
For all of Mr. Obama's eloquence on the need for Democrats to be more respectful of religion, more willing to confront the teachers' unions, and more open to the opportunities of the market, when it comes time for action it's a different story. On issues from abortion to free trade, Mr. Obama's votes suggest a man careful not to do anything to offend the Democratic Party's most entrenched interest groups.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Without his Recovery and Reinvestment Act, he says, the economy will fall back into that abyss and may never recover.
This fearmongering may be good politics, but it is bad history and bad economics. It is bad history because our current economic woes don't come close to those of the 1930s. At worst, a comparison to the 1981-82 recession might be appropriate.
Mr. Obama's analogies to the Great Depression are not only historically inaccurate, they're also dangerous. Repeated warnings from the White House about a coming economic apocalypse aren't likely to raise consumer and investor expectations for the future. In fact, they have contributed to the continuing decline in consumer confidence that is restraining a spending pickup. Beyond that, fearmongering can trigger a political stampede to embrace a "recovery" package that delivers a lot less than it promises. A more cool-headed assessment of the economy's woes might produce better policies.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Mr. Daschle's embarrassment of riches is a typical story, and in fact is the result of the liberal ideology his critics have been advocating for decades. The main story of the Obama Presidency so far isn't the contradiction between Mr. Obama's campaign promises and the messier reality of his nominees. That was always inevitable. The real story is the massive transfer of power and wealth now underway from the private sector to the political class. Mr. Daschle could make so much money and achieve such prominence because he was expected to be a central broker in that wealth transfer.
What Mr. Daschle's lucrative career as influence peddler really illustrates is how much
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
The main lesson we have learned from the New Deal is that wholesale government intervention can -- and does -- deliver the most unintended of consequences.