Friday, September 03, 2010

Quote of the Day: Paul Krugman on economic policy, Obama, and the GOP

From Krugman's column in today's Times:

Next week, President Obama is scheduled to propose new measures to boost the economy. I hope they're bold and substantive, since the Republicans will oppose him regardless -- if he came out for motherhood, the G.O.P. would declare motherhood un-American. So he should put them on the spot for standing in the way of real action.

Over a year and a half into Obama's presidency, this is one of the lessons that we all should have learned but that, alas, seems to escaped notice at the White House: It really doesn't matter what the Democrats do, and it doesn't matter how much Obama tries to reach out to his opponents, Republicans have resolved to be not the loyal opposition that seeks to work with the government to advance a policy agenda to help Americans but to obstruct anything and everything that Obama and the Democrats propose to do.

There has been the occasional defection from the GOP ranks, but for the most part Republicans have remained united regardless of the issue. We saw this most notably on health-care reform, when some Republicans, like Sens. Snowe and Grassley, said they wanted to work with Obama and even seemed to engage constructively with Democrats at the committee stage, supporting early reform packages and talking compromise, but then, perhaps never genuine in their support, voted with their leadership to try to filibuster the bill, trying to block it from even coming to a vote, and then voted against it, a bill that resembled Republican reform proposals from the '90s.

Given what we have learned, there seems to be no point in trying to appease Republicans on anything. In the end, they'll be against it, just as they'll be against whatever Obama proposes for the economy next week. On this, Krugman is right. The problem is that Obama needs 60 votes in the Senate to get anything done, and that means not just winning over at least one Republican but keeping every Democrat on board, including quasi-Republicans like Nelson and Landrieu. Obama could (and perhaps should) propose "bold and "substantive" measures, but he and Reid will need to water them down a lot if they are to get them passed. And that's just in the Senate. There's also the not-insignificant matter of appeasing the various Democratic interests in the House, including Blue Dogs fighting for their political lives this fall and unlikely to fall in behind Obama on anything that smacks of government overreach.

Krugman gets this, of course:

The actual lessons of 2009-2010, then, are that scare stories about stimulus are wrong, and that stimulus works when it is applied. But it wasn't applied on a sufficient scale. And we need another round.

I know that getting that round is unlikely: Republicans and conservative Democrats won't stand for it. And if, as expected, the G.O.P. wins big in November, this will be widely regarded as a vindication of the anti-stimulus position. Mr. Obama, we'll be told, moved too far to the left, and his Keynesian economic doctrine was proved wrong.

But politics determines who has the power, not who has the truth. The economic theory behind the Obama stimulus has passed the test of recent events with flying colors; unfortunately, Mr. Obama, for whatever reason -- yes, I’m aware that there were political constraints -- initially offered a plan that was much too cautious given the scale of the economy's problems.

So, as I said, here's hoping that Mr. Obama goes big next week. If he does, he'll have the facts on his side. 

He will, and I hope he does go big at least to start with (before the necessary concessions to secure support), but what do facts mean in this political climate? Not much -- Republicans have no use for them and the public has proven receptive to conservative propaganda.

Ultimately, Obama will likely seek to do what is political expedient, not economically right (and necessary), and Democrats, fearful of losing a bloodbath in November, will likely roll over and let the Republicans win. But the result of all that will still be Republican victories across the land and an economy that continues to struggle, if not to worsen.

Coleridge: "If men could learn from history, what lessons it might teach us! But passion and party blind our eyes, and the light which experience gives is a lantern on the stern, which shines only on the waves behind us!"

Huxley: "That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history."

In other words: We're doomed.

Labels: , , , , ,

Bookmark and Share


Post a Comment

<< Home