Friday, February 6, 2009

Bipartisanship seems to be working wonders

Would the Obama economic plan, if enacted, ensure that America won’t have its own lost decade? Not necessarily: a number of economists, myself included, think the plan falls short and should be substantially bigger...That’s why the efforts of Republicans to make the plan smaller and less effective — to turn it into little more than another round of Bush-style tax cuts — are so destructive.

So what should Mr. Obama do? Count me among those who think that the president made a big mistake in his initial approach, that his attempts to transcend partisanship ended up empowering politicians who take their marching orders from Rush Limbaugh.


It’s time for Mr. Obama to go on the offensive. Above all, he must not shy away from pointing out that those who stand in the way of his plan, in the name of a discredited economic philosophy, are putting the nation’s future at risk. The American economy is on the edge of catastrophe, and much of the Republican Party is trying to push it over that edge.
Aside from the partisan hackery (which is to be expected from Krugman, although I clearly am not recommending 'bipartisanship' as an alternative), Krugman's most recent article is right on. Obama and the Democrats have already squandered crucial moments of their mandate and political capital blathering about 'bipartisanship', which has had the net effect (surprise, surprise) of empowering an otherwise pummelled and defeated opponent and enabling them to try to derail the Democrat's plans. Nevermind that the plans in question, according to Stiglitz and Krugman, are grossly inadequate and far from 'audacious' enough. The result of the love affair with 'reaching accross the aisle', however, is that these tepid policies are further diluted by a pathetic congressional minority who has seen their power halved in the last four years at the polls. And its hardly just the Republicans who are diluting it: 'centrist' Democrats like Ben Nelson in the senate have been recently trying to defang the stimulus bill by swapping spending for tax breaks.

Obama claimed that he would bring in a new era of sweeping change. But so far he has willingly given over some of his own mandate to the neoliberal extremists on the Right and thus reneged on his promise for change by reaching out (even if only rhetorically) to a party that is thoroughly convinced that 'gummint spending is the problem, tax cuts are the only solution'. Reaching out to these morons means giving up even the most moderate conceptions of 'change' on the table already... it means in effect reverting back to the Bush years. I mean let's be honest: all we can expect from this language of 'change' at this point is increased spending on things like education, healthcare, infrastructure (particularly public transit) and public employment. If the Democrats cannot even deliver on these modest goals, in what sense are they even a nominally 'progressive' party at all? Everything that liberals have claimed that Democrats needed in order to really pass bold reforms has fallen in place: a heavily popular president elected in a near landslide, a House in firm control by the Dems, and a Senate that is ONE vote shy of a supermajority, heavy cheering for new Administration. Yet, what do they do right off the bat? They blather about bipartisanship. Its hardly peripheral to this discussion to note that the 'they' in question is largely a clique of bankers, ex-financial execs, tax-evaders and otherwise class-enemies of the majority of the population.

What is the point of voting for Democrats if they spend so much time worrying about whether the Republicans (or Capital) are happy?

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