The Village Throws Down
In today's Washington Post, David Broder lays out the problems that a president Obama would face from the moment he takes office --- massive global economic turmoil and foreign mistrust of American leadership. And then he lays down the law about what he's allowed to do about it.
Here it is, right up front, no frills, no sprinkles:
If, as seems likely, the economic crisis swells the ranks of Democrats in the House and Senate, the new president will face an early test: Repair the battered financial system or move ahead on the Democrats' domestic agenda.
The numbers in the first budget Obama would have to prepare will look scary indeed. The deficit could approach an unimaginable trillion dollars. His economic advisers would undoubtedly counsel him that he must, at all costs, signal to the world that he will impose the kind of discipline needed to prevent runaway inflation and a run on the dollar.
But the larger the Democratic majorities, the greater the pressure will be to deliver promptly on the promises Obama has made in the campaign.
When pressed in the two debates, he has reiterated the goals of a massive new alternative energy program, expansion of health-care benefits and investment in education at all levels from pre-kindergarten through college.
With revenue depleted and the costs of Medicaid, welfare and unemployment benefits boosted by the threatened recession, it will take legerdemain to keep those promises.
And that hardly allows for the costs of an expanding war in Afghanistan and a continuing commitment to Iraq -- and God knows what other international crises may develop.
A few forward-looking Democrats have begun to focus on what could be the first test for a President Obama with a Congress controlled by his own party: whether to insist on a pay-as-you-go rule for the budget.
That rule, which provided the discipline behind the Clinton administration's balanced budgets, was abandoned by the Republicans -- with disastrous fiscal results. Pay-go was revived last year when the Democrats took over Congress. But the requirement that any new or increased spending be offset by comparable cuts or new revenue has been a source of frustration for many in the party. And it will pinch much harder if applied next year.
I realize that building safe roads and bridges is nothing but socialistic, nanny state coddling and that creating alternate forms of energy is a pie-in-the-sky hippie fantasy. And while it does not surprise me that David Broder would put "fiscal responsibility" ahead of the betterment of his fellow Americans in normal times (I'm sure he thinks "tough love" is good for the shiftless losers who can't get health care and that the businesses who are drowning in insurance costs should just throw their employees to the curb) I guess I assumed that international economic meltdown, an energy crisis and catastrophic global warming would be enough for him to grant that the government might not want to obsess about balanced budgets right this minute. I had certainly thought someone of Broder's age and experience would at least remember the lessons of Herbert Hoover.
If the village could cheer on George W. Bush and his ignorant thugs as they turned the country into a pariah nation and destroyed the global financial system, I think they must let a new administration have a little room to clean up the fetid mess they left in their wake without standing on the sidelines like a bunch of schoolmarms scolding anyone who brings up the name of that horrible cad John Maynard Keynes.
The Village elder of Village elders has thrown down the gauntlet and says a president Obama must choose between the American people and fixing the financial system. He's wrong, both on the politics and the economics. By helping the American people, he will be rescuing the economy so that the rapacious greedheads can live to pillage another day.
After 30 years of Republican dominance these elites simply can't wrap their minds around the fact that the old paradigm is dead -- deregulation, cutting taxes for rich people and running a taxpayer funded war manufacturing system is a failed governing philosophy. Broder says it right out:
If Obama wins, he may have the shortest honeymoon in history.
In other words, the new president is on notice --- he had better follow the paygo blue dogs and the right wing purists over the cliff of "fiscal responsibility" or he will lose any support from the political establishment. I guess we have to actually live through another great depression before they will let go of their cherished shibboleth that it's the liberal spendthrifts who always ruin everything for the Real Americans.