Monday, April 11, 2011

Following Krugman Over The Top

Not surprisingly, Paul Krugman does not like the Obama-Boehner deal for the FY2011 budget. He is also appalled by the Paul Ryan budget plan. Naturally, Krugman's upset that Medicare is about to be "savaged," the deficit is about to be "blown up" by the extension of the Bush-era tax rates and "the rich" and the "corporations" are going to make out like gang busters. But rather than rage at the usual Republicans and their plutocratic puppet masters, Krugman turns his ire and disappointment against the President.

Mr. Obama is conspicuously failing to mount any kind of challenge to the philosophy now dominating Washington discussion — a philosophy that says the poor must accept big cuts in Medicaid and food stamps; the middle class must accept big cuts in Medicare (actually a dismantling of the whole program); and corporations and the rich must accept big cuts in the taxes they have to pay. Shared sacrifice!

I’m not exaggerating. The House budget proposal that was unveiled last week — and was praised as “bold” and “serious” by all of Washington’s Very Serious People — includes savage cuts in Medicaid and other programs that help the neediest, which would among other things deprive 34 million Americans of health insurance. It includes a plan to privatize and defund Medicare that would leave many if not most seniors unable to afford health care. And it includes a plan to sharply cut taxes on corporations and to bring the tax rate on high earners down to its lowest level since 1931.

The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center puts the revenue loss from these tax cuts at $2.9 trillion over the next decade. House Republicans claim that the tax cuts can be made “revenue neutral” by “broadening the tax base” — that is, by closing loopholes and ending exemptions. But you’d need to close a lot of loopholes to close a $3 trillion gap; for example, even completely eliminating one of the biggest exemptions, the mortgage interest deduction, wouldn’t come close. And G.O.P. leaders have not, of course, called for anything that drastic. I haven’t seen them name any significant exemptions they would end.

You might have expected the president’s team not just to reject this proposal, but to see it as a big fat political target. But while the G.O.P. proposal has drawn fire from a number of Democrats — including a harsh condemnation from Senator Max Baucus, a centrist who has often worked with Republicans — the White House response was a statement from the press secretary expressing mild disapproval.

What’s going on here? Despite the ferocious opposition he has faced since the day he took office, Mr. Obama is clearly still clinging to his vision of himself as a figure who can transcend America’s partisan differences. And his political strategists seem to believe that he can win re-election by positioning himself as being conciliatory and reasonable, by always being willing to compromise.

But if you ask me, I’d say that the nation wants — and more important, the nation needs — a president who believes in something, and is willing to take a stand. And that’s not what we’re seeing. 

Krugman could have written that in his sleep (and I've certainly had nightmares about being trapped in a Hell where the only reading material is provided by NY Times columnists). But let's concentrate here on the bolded part. Does Krugman really believe that Americans are crying out for presidential leadership to save progressive governance?? That there is some kind of silent left-wing majority out there that is being betrayed by Obama's failure to stand firm against the Tea Party? Excuse me while I laugh hysterically.

American leftists are the noisiest (not to mention noisome) interest group in the United States. We know who they are, where they work, and what they think of Tea Parties, tax cuts and spending restraint - they are against all of these. Not only that, virtually the entire American academic, media, and intellectual elite - not to mention politicians - do everything in their power to present left-wing persons and their ideas in the most sympathetic light possible. Americans don't need Obama to "fight" for them. There are plenty of folks out there who will "fight" for endless tax increases and unrestrained spending, whether Americans want them to or not.

1 comment:

  1. "... whether Americans want them to or not."

    This is the key.

    Afaik quite a few polls show that Americans are in support of policies Obama once seemed to support (if not promise), at least if the veil of manipulative wording is being removed from poll questions.

    There was no real majority in support of giving the top few per cent (in income) a tax break that was much larger in total revenue loss than for everyone else.

    Or let's look at it from another angle; he's supposed to represent all Americans, but politically he's supposed to represent those who voted for him. The others didn't chose him as their representative, after all.
    Those who voted for him seem to be in average and in median more left than Obama's policies (and deals) are.
    I think this is what Krugman meant. Obama the president is too much unlike Obama the candidate.