Is Obama Already Betraying Us?

I’ve been quiet, but I’m not happy.  My finance guru Roger Ehrenberg posted this yesterday and it forced me into action.

Anybody could spend all day, every day trying to decode the stimulus plan making its way through congress.  It’s widely accepted that the country is in dire straights and could be facing double digit unemployment in the next 6-12 months.  We know urgency is critical.

But I voted for change.  I voted for the rhetoric that President Obama used in every debate: Kill poor performing government programs and use a scalpel to cut the cancer out of the federal budget.   I voted for an intellectual heavyweight who could decode the ways of Washington and use the power of the bully pulpit to get Americans to accept the dire consequences of our predicament.

This Stiumlus plan calls for large sums of money to be invested with state unemployment agencies (their coffers are dry) and extending cobra benefits.  It calls for money to flow to state education funds so that education programs that might be cut can continue.  There are various infrastructure investments around the country as the bill gets marked up to help various Congressmen and Senators.  This isn’t stimulus.  It’s an  emergency spending bill to prop up an economy teetering on the abyss.  Congress is taking out a trillion dollar credit card to buy more stuff and China is Visa.  Only this time Visa is not entirely sure they want to give us all of this credit.

What is it about this plan that radiates change?  One week into the administration, they are presenting legislation that does not call for shared sacrifice.  We’re cutting taxes and not raising them.  Shouldn’t we raise taxes on people with jobs and use the proceeds to retrain people who need jobs.

This is the Washington I grew up in — insular, myopic as inside-the-beltway as it comes.  I want to  believe in Obama’s Team of Rivals, but what if these Clintonite members of the establishment can’t bring fresh ideas and rely on the horse-trading power hungry culture that drove me out of my hometown forever.

If we are going to spend $1 trillion on stimulus and another $1 trillion on saving the financial industry then we must have new innovative strategic vision in four key areas:

1.  Education

2.  Energy

3.  Healthcare

4.  Financial Industry Regulation

These were the campaign promises.  I did not vote for the Democratic Party (I’m a lifelong registered democrat), rather I supported Barack Obama the progressive intellectual.  Supporting programs simply to keep us afloat until next year with no real overarching retooling of our governmental strategy is, and I hate to say it, better than Bush, but worse than Clinton.

I’m patient, but the sums we are investing are staggering.  We’re two weeks a way from the stimulus bill.  $350 bn in TARP 1 that has accomplished nothing is so outrageous it defies imagination.

I  always thought that the country’s dire economic condition could create the rare  political environment to push through uncommonly innovative investments in energy and education reform.  I pray (and I don’t typically  do so) that the devil is in the details of the stimulus plan and that the NYT and Politico have not uncovered the progressive agenda.

At the moment, Congresshas a bill that reminds me of  LBJ’s great society with a little Reagan tax policy thrown in for good measure.   That’s not FDR’s new deal.  That’s just the Washington that makes me want to live somewhere else.

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5 Responses

  1. “Is Obama Already Betraying Us?”

    No.

    “Shouldn’t we raise taxes on people with jobs and use the proceeds to retrain people who need jobs.”

    No. That sends an even more damaging sign. Where does it stop? Not everyone who has held a job down, can afford a tax hike. Higher spending and lower taxation, the Keynesian way, deserves a chance. None of us, including those who have already written Obama off, can predict the true affect of what is to come.

  2. I don’t feel Obama is betraying us on anything. There is a difference between disagreements and what is betrayal. This is not betrayal. I believe most Obama actions have been constructive.
    There will be more than one stimulus effort. Major actions will occur in education, health, energy and financial regulation and much more. Even FDR’s hundred days had internal debates and some of the legislation didn’t work well such as the National Industrial Recovery Act.
    Issues will be debated so I think it’s critical to get ideas, policies, implementation strategies out there so we have a robust debate. I hope Roger and Aaron add to that debate.
    So far the House Republicans have not contributed to the debate. They propose stale ideas with their irresponsible tax cuts for the wealthy and substitute highway spending for necessary social safety net expenditures. Let’s see if there is improvement among Senate Republicans
    There will be legitmate issues and differences among progressives. So we have to sort them through and keep the rhetoric focused. We have to avoid excessive language such as betrayal.

  3. Dad, perhaps you could outline how this trillion dollar investment (about 2/3 of which is spending) is going to meaningfully advance reforming government in the areas of health care, education, energy, and financial regulatory reform?

    I do not share your optimism that the country will be able to continuously pass stimulus legislation when it’s not clear that the other country’s will be able to finance our debt. So this stimulus package matters not only for its spend, but for how it shapes the first four years of the administration.

    Here’s an example, While you may agree that extending cobra benefits helps secure the social safety net, I’m not sure how it advances real reform for any of our key issues. Surely, these benefits will help to keep certain hospitals afloat that are seeing big hits to revenue, but is this health care reform no.

    I know the people in our industry are anxious to see the kind of innovation that has transformed, retail, banking, travel etc. How can I read this stimulus bill as anything more than Johnsonesque?

    What’s worse is Obama and his advisors are afraid to raise taxes to help finance all this because they think it will hurt the stimulus effort.

    If America is a growth company and we want to borrow money to grow it faster then I would prefer not to invest money in things that have no real benefit beyond the short-term.

    This stimulus might make sense if you just want to try and keep the country afloat. I thought we were in this to reclaim our rightful place on the world stage and rediscover who we are as a nation. I am paying attention to the rhetoric.

    Incidentally, yesterday’s rhetoric about Wall Street was right on target. Now let’s see how it actually change TARP II if at all.

  4. John Boehner = Herbert Hoover

    And we all know how that worked out.

  5. Aaron,
    This legislation in the initial stimulus is about pent up stuff that has been postponed because of the Bush vetoes and planned neglect. It is mostly useful stuff in that it is designed to get matters going. It’s not about reform along the lines you want. That’s the next phase. Daschle and Chu, hopefully Browner, will have far reaching plans. I think Geithner, Summers, Bair and others will too. There is also a Congressional competence among some in the House and Senate that will further move things along. Orzag, and his team, will be a good anchor. I hope Vilsack (though I am not sure he will) will shake up the special interest cobwebs out of Agriculture so that it deals food (the Pollan influence and fighting hunger and supporting nutrition). There will be compromises–some lousy but others the good people initiate that will advance matters. Slazar seems to be headed there. I can’t get a read on Solis but I think EPA under Johnson will do well.
    What is happening now is that lots of ideas are emerging within government and out of it. That’s where Roger Ehrenberg comes in–strategies and proposals, yes and whistle blowing on what should be a no.
    There’s an energy that I haven’t seen since 1965 and I imagine occurred through the 1933-38 period.
    There will be definers–possibly the State oof the Union, definitely the Budget Message and then the individual proposals.
    Stay skeptical. Keep the bar high. Wemay have a remarkable ride. I’m going to do my part to help it along. So keep the challenges going!

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