Barack Obama, economics

The trouble with bipartisanship

I am not sure if Barack Obama is arrogant or naive enough to believe that he can somehow craft a bipartisan agreement to save the American economy from the worst of what’s coming, but he’s learning a painful lesson right now if Paul Krugman is right. It appears that in order to buy enough Republican votes, votes from the party that was largely responsible for creating the mess in the first place, Obama has had to convert huge chunks of the stimulus package into tax cuts, cuts which many, including Krugman, have argued will not provide immediate stimulous benefits, and may in fact lead to further problems down the road as the governments’ resources dwindle.

As Krugman points out, expenditures at low levels, where they will have the greatest effect, have either been reduced (such as proposed additional funds directly to states), or eliminated altogether. This flies in the face of a Moody’s report last year that determined that the greatest immediate stimulus effects come from increases to food stamp and unemployment insurance programs; far greater than the effects of tax breaks.

The Democrats need to be told who won the election. The Republicans have nothing to lose if Obama’s stimulus package doesn’t work and everything to gain in 2012. It is a farce that Obama should sacrifice the chances of producing real progress at the altar of bipartisanship. This would work if one believed that the Republicans actually wanted what’s best for the country, but anyone alive the last eight years should know better than that. Like Rush Limbaugh, the Republicans want Barack Obama to fail, and they will do anything they can to see that he does. They don’t give a rat’s ass about good governance – the only thing they care about is winning elections. If Obama provides a stimulus package that works, they will indeed lose the next time around, and maybe the next, and maybe the next. Their only hope is to make sure that it doesn’t work, and if they can promote their failed agenda while doing it, while at the same time make it look like it was the Democrats’ ideas that failed, all the better.

Obama either has to punk the Republicans or be punked by them – there is no middle ground.

9 thoughts on “The trouble with bipartisanship

  1. This reminds me of Tony Blair’s third way that turned out to be “no way.” Where’s Tony now? – nowhere!

    Or, it reminds me of Bob Rae’s obsession with currying favour with the banks and bond lenders when the NDP came to power in Ontario in the early 90s – listen baby, no matter how much you wanted to think of Ontario as a possible European country redux(such as Germany), where business, labour, and the govt get together and try to work together), our Canadian history was and still is different – too much US influence of ramped individualism (until their crap hits the fan), so it never was going to happen, baby!

    Ditto for Obama – get over it. Krugman and the bond lenders (on the same page – OMG)are right. You want to stim the economy, put it in the hands of those who are going to spend it in the real economy – on main street. The best way to win over the right-wing brain-washed voters (who for the most part are working class) are those being hit by this global depression. Forget rich republicans – they just want their businesses bailed out.


  2. “The Republicans have nothing to lose if Obama’s stimulus package doesn’t work”

    Hmm. I wonder. If we spend 800 billion dollars and the stimulus doesn’t work, guess who will be paying the bill in 2012.
    Republicans who think they can just sit back and hope Obama fails are like passengers on a bus stuck in quicksand. If you don’t get out and lighten the load, the whole bus is going under…including the passengers.

    Obama doesn’t really need the stimulus to succeed because he wasn’t driving the bus when it hit the quicksand. All he’s dong right now is try to figure out a way to get the bus unstuck. The guy was driving the bus got out several weeks ago and went home.


  3. You’re right that the Dems can say that they didn’t cause the problem, but they got hired to fix it, and if they don’t, do you think they are going to campaign in 2012 on “we did our best in a bad situation?” If the stimulus doesn’t show some quick results, payback will begin before that, in 2010. And it won’t matter whether the Republicans caused it or even if they actively obstructed attempts by the Democrats to fix things, if the fix doesn’t work, the Democrats will wear it.


  4. None taken, Dan, but I don’t think that Krugman’s argument is at all weakened by the fact that he hasn’t been an Obama fanboy; he wasn’t a Bush fanboy and he was right most of the time over the past eight long years.


  5. Which is a far cry from saying he deserves the blind worship and aura of infallibility you’re giving him – the same thing could be said about Ron Paul and Andrew Sullivan…


  6. Furthermore, attacking Obama’s ‘bipartisonship’ as ‘naive and/or arrogant’ is a rather unnauanced look at the American political system – the simple fact is that the Dems still only have 58 seats in the Senate – which means that to get a filibuster-proof stimulus package through the Senate, Obama had to come up with something at least 2 Republicans.


  7. Dan, the fact of the matter is they don’t *need* a filibuster-proof majority to pass the package. If they really wanted to, they simply could put out what they think would work, sell it hard to the American people on its benefits and costs, and let the Republicans try to filibuster it. There would be some ringing of hands and gnashing of teeth, but in the end it would pass.

    The Republicans have already shown that they don’t want to play ball, so hit ’em with the bat.


  8. Kevvyd – the fact of the matter, is that what you’re presenting as ‘the fact of the matter’ is nothing more than your opinion, and if that’s your tactic, maybe you’d be happier posting with Rush Limbaugh, as that tactic is more his style.

    Secondly, if the stimulus bill has been changed – why exactly are you blaming Obama? Maybe you might want to take my advice earlier about studying the American political system – unlike Canada, Obama isn’t the head of the Democratic Party, and Democratic Senators can, and do, follow their own agenda. You want to blame someone, try placing the blame on the Senators where it belongs.

    And thirdly, as for selling the plan – that’s what Obama’s doing right now – and it seems to be working with the public if this poll is correct:

    And ultimately, that’s who Obama has to answer to, the voting public – not columnists, and not bloggers.


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