Friday, October 30, 2009

The Daily Strike-10/30/09-I'll Let the Big Picture Do the Talking

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. It's getting late and I want to watch a hockey game, and there's not a whole lot of political news out there. So in lieu of a formal entry tonight, I bring you thoughtful comments from the Big Picture. Enjoy!

On David Brooks' Column Today: It's just so infuriating that he can say with a straight face, "We need a commander who has a single-minded drive and ignores everything else" when we just had that with Bush and it failed spectacularly and that's the whole reason Obama was elected! He says that without even mentioning Bush and Cheney!!!!!! Trying to think of an analogy for that, it's hard to do because it's so outrageous.

Also a lot of ridiculous, unsourced, unsubstantiated, "Look it's obvious" talk about "Look, every serious person knows that we can win in Afghanistan". That's absurd.

That kind of column just reflects everything I hate about Washington and the Establishment and the Looks and it supposedly was what Obama was running against and why I supported him: that whole thing where you can be completely catastrophically wrong, and then just keep pretending you weren't wrong and make the same demands based on the same arguments even though they were totally discredited. A great thing about sports is that could never happen.

Reacting to news that the Public Option will charge higher premiums than private companies under the House bill: Ugh that's a real splash of cold water in the face. Shows why all the fuss over the public option is very minimally related to what it will actually do - as Ezra pointed out yesterday, it's symbolic for a big fight over Obama's Presidency. The Fix is right that we're lucky that Republicans are fighting on that and not on other things. On the other hand, liberals are fighting for this policy that won't do that much, and not for tax increases on the rich, or for making it cover more people, or for better economic recovery and job creation programs and unemployment insurance and public investment. It's weird watching how both party bases can go crazy over peripheral, symbolic things and then not seem to care at all about things they should care about, about what matters to real people. That is a big sin of the Democratic base, one that's gotten better recently, but still a problem. For example in my neighborhood yesterday I saw a young leftist wearing a "Close Guantanamo!" shirt. Fine, I agree, but there's so much passion around that issue but not around job creation. I know it's because it's a Moral issue with a capital M while job creation and effective social safety net programs are nuanced cost-benefit analyses, but they still matter a lot more.

On my contention that he had flipped-flopped on the Public Option, and then comments on how to create jobs:
The public option fight has become a huge proxy battle, whether that's appropriate or not, and substantively it still has some major advantages and is a very good thing - but it is unquestionably not as important as providing all Americans with affordable and effective health insurance, or with improving the job picture, the wage picture, the general sense of stability and security. I think that winning the public option fight is crucial for creating the political dynamic where we can effectively do more, all the things we need government to do, because it's become such a battle over whether government will actively help people, or will be unhelpful and only benefit corporations and the rich.
I don't know enough to know what exactly will work - but the biggest thing is just covering up state and local government shortfalls. That alone would do a lot. Another huge thing would be requiring banks to lend, or taking them over and doing the lending ourselves. And then from there public works, lots of investments in education, green technology, etc. Crucial to not just stimulate spending but instead move toward a sound economy, not so dependent on consumers spending more money than they earn, which is the crazy model we've been on for a while. Need to move from that. But I would try a bunch of things, vetting them with economists for what's more proven to work and pay dividends. What we need is just a lot more focus and sense of urgency on that, that it's a top priority in reality not just in lip service. What kind of economy are we trying to build? How can we move in that direction? Explain and act upon the New Foundation that Obama was talking about, which I thought was great, but now has been forgotten apparently.

Clearly they are doing a lot, it's not like they're just doing nothing like Bush and Co., but it needs to be ramped up a great deal, whether it's credit card protection or student loans or aid to education or financial reform to stimulate lending and investment and on and on. I just don't trust that Geithner and Summers and the rest of the economic policy team really believe in moving the economy from its old shaky foundation into the New Foundation, an economy that provides security and opportunity for all Americans. So it's not just the specific policies, it's the whole mindset, who are we working for, what vision do we have, bigger picture goals, and then we figure out the tactics to make it happen.

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