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James Kwak on the "Obama Renaissance"


From the Baseline Scenario:

The Obama Renaissance « The Baseline Scenario: President Obama is enjoying something of a political resurgence... among the commentariat. Ezra Klein points out that his approval ratings remain higher than those of his Congressional opposition, as opposed to Clinton in 1994 and Bush in 2006.... Obama is certainly in a decent position politically, and I would bet on him to be reelected comfortably in 2012. First off, his opponents in Congress are deeply irresponsible... and face a huge political problem within their own party: a significant portion of the conservative base really does want lower deficits, yet the only thing the Republican caucus knows how to do is cut taxes.... Obama is likely to face an opponent who has been pulled dangerously close to the lunatic fringe during the primary....

Bai basically parrots the Obama administration’s line: they did the tax cut deal because it was good policy, it would stimulate the economy, and they got a good deal... it’s good governance.... I think the Obama team may actually believe that, because their idea of good policy was centrist to begin with.

Did you notice that their key talking point on the tax cut issue was about not raising middle-class taxes in the middle of a recession? Well, this conveniently overlooks... that the administration wanted to make the "middle-class tax cuts" permanent.... Obama’s preferred policy — killing the tax cuts on the super-rich (over $250,000) and keeping them for the upper-middle class and the moderately rich — is... regressive... increases the pressure to cut Social Security and Medicare....

So no, I don’t think Obama is abandoning his principles for political advantage; I think these are his principles.... I’m upset at him for being wrong on the policy level.... I always thought Obama was a moderate who looked like a progressive.... [A]s Nate Silver said, “what Obama has wound up with is an unpopular, liberal sheen on a relatively centrist agenda.” What’s happening now, if his good run continues, is he is shedding the liberal sheen and getting a centrist sheen on a centrist agenda. And politically, that’s all good for him. Combine that with his obvious political skills, and the future looks bright for him.

Unfortunately, the future does not look very bright for the country. Obama was supposed to be educable--to respond to empirical evidence about how, say, the economy needs more demand right now and not for the government to "tighten its belt," and about how, say, imprisoning and torturing goatherds sold to us by their clan enemies makes us less and not more secure because they all have relatives.

My fear right now is that Obama genuinely does not understand the arithmetic of the budget--that he is willing to endorse the Simpson-Bowles 21% of GDP maximum size of the government because he does not understand that that means the repeal of both his health care reform and of Medicare...