terça-feira, 29 de dezembro de 2009

The WYSIWYG president

Paul Krugman

Original NY Times blog entry here

There’s a lot of dismay/rage on the left over Obama, a number of cries that he isn’t the man progressives thought they were voting for.

But that says more about the complainers than it does about Obama himself. If you actually paid attention to the substance of what he was saying during the primary, you realized that
(a) There wasn’t a lot of difference among the major Democratic contenders
(b) To the extent that there was a difference, Obama was the least progressive
Now it’s true that many progressives were ardent Obama supporters, with their ardency mixed in with a fair bit of demonization of Hillary Clinton. And maybe they were right — but not on policy grounds. (I still remember people angrily telling me that if Hillary got in, she’d fill her economics team with Rubinites).
So what you’re getting is what you should have seen.
And exactly what should we blame Obama for? Here’s how I see it.
I still believe that Obama could have gotten a bigger stimulus. Yes, he needed some Senate “centrists”, but my read is that they were determined to take a slice off whatever he proposed — so he could have proposed more and gotten more. It was very different from health care, where it was really about policy rather than essentially arbitrary numbers.
Obama could definitely have taken a harder line with banks.
Obama could also have done a lot more to change the discourse — less hope and change and let’s end the partisan bickering, more conservatives have the wrong ideas and we need to undo the damage.
But on health care, I don’t see how he could have gotten much more. How could he have made Joe Lieberman less, um, Liebermanish? And I have to say that much as I disagree with Ben Nelson about many things, he has seemed refreshingly honest, at least in the final stages, about what he will and won’t accept. Meanwhile the fact is that Republicans have formed a solid bloc of opposition to Obama’s ability to do, well, anything.
Some of my commenters have argued that even with this bill Democrats may well lose seats next year — possibly even more than they would have without it. Definitely on the first point; on the second, I don’t think people realize just how damaging it would be if Obama didn’t get any major reforms passed. But in any case, that misses the point. The reason to pass reform, even inadequate reform, now isn’t to gain seats next year; it is to pass reform, which will do vast good, during the window that’s available. If it doesn’t pass now, it will probably be many nears before the next chance.
But back to Obama: the important thing to bear in mind is that this isn’t about him; and, equally important, it isn’t about you. If you’ve fallen out of love with a politician, well, so what? You should just keep working for the things you believe in.

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