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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

 
Begging for a tourniquet

by digby

Here's centrist Matt Miller expressing his anger at Barack Obama for failing to live up to his expectations. Seriously.

Once Obama sees that this struggle for power assures no substantive progress in the next 15 months, he has two alternatives. He can campaign small — via Mediscare and fresh taxes on millionaires and billionaires, while demonizing the GOP candidate as “worse” — and hope to squeak across the finish line.

Or he can go big — with mega-plans for jobs, education, infrastructure, and research and development, while calling out GOP nihilism as the obstacle. But “big” means pairing this with bolder (and much more candid) long-term deficit-cutting plans that kick in once unemployment comes back down— including higher taxes on the best-off, yes, but also sensible steps to slow the growth of Medicare and Social Security, bigger defense cuts, and modestly higher taxes for everyone on consumption, dirty energy and financial transactions.

Will Obama go big? I think not, because no honest agenda for American renewal can avoid trims and taxes that impose costs on the middle class (as part of a long-term plan to save it).[Thanks for caring Matt.]

Yes, the president will sound “big,” and so will his opponent. But it’ll be phony. Instead, we’re in for another season of charades as both parties fight for 51 percent with symbolic “ideas” unequal to the size of our challenges.


Frankly, Miller's worst case scenario sounds like heaven compared to mine which is that Obama does what all his people are saying he's going to do and "go big" on his Grand Bargain while punting on jobs. But you have to give them credit for one thing, the White House understands what people like Miller do not --- combining a massive jobs program with a massive deficit cutting program sounds like bullshit to ordinary people. Sure, it might be possible to claim that the deficit presents the greatest threat to the country the world has ever known at the same time as you increase it dramatically to put people back to work, but it doesn't make instinctive sense to average people. Unfortunately, the Democrats jumped on the deficit bandwagon and painted themselves into this corner --- once you've said that the government is like a family and must "tighten its belt" it's a little hard to say that you want to go out and borrow more money. That metaphor sailed some time ago.

Had the administration and the Democrats tried to fight off deficit fever when it first struck with different policies they might have succeeded in persuading the people that the it's the government's job to fix the economy when the private sector fails. One wonders what would have happened if Democrats had used a different metaphor such a Krugman's, which says that when the private sector is bleeding jobs, the government steps in with a transfusion -- and that the deficit hawks in both parties are like medieval doctors applying leeches to a hemorrhaging patient. Maybe they could have shown that the function of the government is actually quite different than "daddy" worrying about how to pay the bills. But some focus group somewhere obviously "responded" to the family metaphor and so it goes.

Miller won't get his wish. There will be no massive jobs program because the deficit hawks in both parties have made it impossible and the president has decided to try to misdirect the people and make them believe that a deficit deal is doing something. All we can do now is try to put a tourniquet on the patient and hope it somehow makes it through without developing gangrene.


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