Turning Shlaes Into An Oracle
Wait a minute. I was told over and over gain by very savvy insiders that "No Drama Obama" was in full effect all the way through the first two years. And now we find out it wasn't true. Go figure:
Less Drama in White House After Staff Changes
When Rahm Emanuel was White House chief of staff, the decision about what President Obama would say in the short address he delivers via radio and the Internet each Saturday changed so often that speechwriters would wait until Friday to write.
But since William M. Daley took over two months ago and David Plouffe succeeded David Axelrod as communications chief, the decision is made early — and it sticks.
The new team Mr. Obama has assembled to run the White House is just starting to make its mark. But together Mr. Daley and Mr. Plouffe are bringing a new order and a different management style for different times, say people within the West Wing and others who deal with them. The White House is more disciplined and less personality driven, more focused on long-term strategic goals and less consumed by the daily messaging skirmishes with Republicans — even when that means absorbing hits and pulling punches for now.
Unlike Mr. Emanuel, the idea-a-minute dynamo who would dart from floor to floor trying to control matters mundane and major, Mr. Daley, a seasoned former executive and commerce secretary in the Clinton administration, has streamlined the operation and is more likely to keep to his office, door closed, and to delegate to subordinates. The big matters, however, demand his full attention. On Wednesday, Mr. Obama directed Mr. Daley to help negotiate a deal on spending cuts with Republicans on Capitol Hill.
Are they trying to make us miss Emmanuel? I think so:
White House officials say the goal is winning the year — by bagging a budget deal or the credit for trying — not each day’s news cycle. On two successive weekends, for example, the White House passed up chances to score points against House Republicans.
Last Saturday, Mr. Daley addressed Democratic governors meeting in Washington and did not even utter the word “Republican,” let alone throw partisan red meat by lambasting House Republicans’ proposed cuts in education, health services, border control and other programs important to financially struggling states — a purposeful omission, officials said.
Similarly, a week earlier when the House before dawn had approved those cuts by a party-line vote, the White House remained silent though many of Mr. Obama’s priorities would be slashed.
Frustrated Democratic lawmakers and interest groups have been railing to White House aides that Mr. Obama is forfeiting opportunities to draw the public’s attention to what the Republicans’ cuts would mean for programs popular with most voters, including the coveted independents. The aides respond that the time will come for Mr. Obama to join the attack, should Republicans press their agenda and refuse to compromise...
Similarly, the White House mostly has sought to stay out of the fray in Madison, Wis., and other state capitals where Republican governors are battling public employee unions and Democratic lawmakers over collective bargaining rights. When West Wing officials discovered that the Democratic National Committee had mobilized Mr. Obama’s national network to support the protests, they angrily reined in the staff at the party headquarters.
Administration officials said they saw such events beyond Washington as distractions from the optimistic “win the future” message Mr. Obama introduced with his State of the Union address, exhorting the country to increase spending for some programs even as it cuts others so that America can “out-innovate and out-educate” its global rivals.
I wonder if he mentioned to the Egyptians and Charlie Sheen that they were stepping on his WTF message too? I mean, how rude of people to get off message when the White house is trying to convince the country that they should believe him over their lying eyes (and empty pocket books.)
At this point it's seems obvious to me that the White House believes it will be rewarded for an economic recovery predicated on big budget cuts, regardless of whether or not the latter had anything to do with the former. I hope everyone can see how thoroughly destructive that is to the progressive movement and liberalism in general. One of the most pervasive misunderstandings in the country right now is the notion that the government should cut spending and eliminate debt at a time of low growth and high unemployment. It's the most pernicious, disaster capitalist trope of all and watching it being advanced by an allegedly left of center administration is rather dizzying.
Moreover, it's extremely risky. Ezra Klein has a post today discussing the disagreement between economists about the potential for lost jobs under the GOP's budget proposals, with the economist John Taylor saying that economist Mark Zandi's alarming projections neglect to take into account the benefits of the confidence fairies joy at budget cuts and finally cutting loose and creating jobs. I think Zandi is supposed to be a proxy for the administration in this argument, but I'm frankly not so sure. Zandi reportedly has Obama's ear, but the actions of the administration indicate that they are also intent upon stimulating the confidence fairies to get the economy moving. At the very least they see it as one vital component of the recovery.
But guess what? If the administration really assumes that it needs to stroke the turgid egos of the Masters of the Universe in order to raise growth and unemployment, the evidence across the pond isn't all that encouraging. Krugman writes:
[H]ow’s that going in Britain, where the Cameron austerity program was supposed to lead the way?
Most of the discussion of Britain I’ve seen focuses on GDP numbers, with the debate then centering on how much of the decline in the 4th quarter was weather-related. But a lot of things affect GDP. Why not look directly at confidence? The BDO has a convenient survey of business optimism (pdf); numbers for December and January here. Here’s what it looks like:
Austerity seems to have hurt, not helped, business confidence; as the BDO says, “Private sector unprepared to fill the hole left by public sector cuts.”
Why do we think the US experience — with the GOP proposals far less serious and responsible than Cameron’s — would be any better?
Or Obama's proposals for that matter? Cutting spending while telling everyone to cheerlead a recovery they don't feel, sending Bill Daley in to fluff the confidence fairies and ignoring anything that doesn't fit the "morning in America's winning future" theme is a funny way of stimulating growth. I hope the economy really is already on the way back so that people can start to rebuild their lives. But I'm very sad for the future of America because cranks like Amity Schlaes will wrongly get the credit, ironically due to a Democratic administration making her argument for her. God only knows what that will mean for the next time. And that's the best case scenario. Worst case is a no growth or return to recession.