Monday, January 25, 2010

So Much For Project Grown-up

One of the things I admired about the Obama campaign was that it held out the promise that Americans were capable of having adult conversations about what our government does, and about how our political culture ought to behave. In essence, Obama offered voters a chance to "hate the game" of Washington politics and promised to change the game to something more ... pleasant. But the more I think about this spending freeze proposal, especially in the context of Obama's responses during the Presidential debates, it seems to be that Team Obama has given up on that project. It's hard to see how we do a lot of weatherization or modernizing our electrical grid without plussing up government spending. So the health care bill, if it passes, will be the first and last major expansion of progressive policy, unless some sort of "cap-and-dividend" approach is taken on climate change.

Now, maybe I'm wrong about this, or maybe this is all kabuki and Obama doesn't expect Congress to abide by the spending freeze, or maybe this will occupy all of 30 seconds of SOTU while he spends ten minutes on weatherization. But at the moment Obama seems to have decided to cede the ideological ground gained during the late Bush years back to conservatives even if conservative governance has been discredited as an ideology that sounds good on paper but which runs square into reality in practice.

7 comments:

Neil Sinhababu said...

I wasn't the biggest fan of Project Grownup, but I'm sad to see it end like this.

Nicholas Beaudrot said...

Why weren't you a fan?

Neil Sinhababu said...

I thought it was a bit too optimistic. People, especially swing voters are not that sharp and need more pandering.

ikl said...

I think that there is a real question given the budget picture over the next three years whether we really have any choice but to do this (assuming no middle class tax increases and not big defense budget cuts until we are out of Iraq at least and maybe out of Afghanistan). I don't know the answer to this.

I worry, though, whether leading with this message is politically smart. Makes it easy to look hypocritical for spending money on anything else.

janinsanfran said...

Pathetic FAIL. So sad, given all the energy we poured into this set of actors.

Brock said...

If Yglesias's post this morning is accurate, the proposed spending freeze should kick in in FY 2012. By then, the recession should be over, and from a Keynesian perspective that will be the right time to cut spending and raise more revenue. And if the recession isn't over we have bigger problems to worry about, viz. "President Palin". (I shudder just typing those two words together.)

So, possibly good on the substance; probably not so good on the "buying into the teabagger narrative" front, unless we can get the Keynesian idea of counter-cyclical spending into more common currency.

Nicholas Beaudrot said...

I think ezra really hits the nail on the head in the last two paragraphs here. By committing to the freeze in SOTU, the WH is basically accepting the current frame of how the public talks about spending issues, despite trying, somewhat, to change it in the first year of the administration:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/


I suppose that if Obama started this segment of SOTU by saying "once we get out of the recession..." that would make me feel better.