Barack Obama, Democrat

The opening salvo of the 2012 campaign was just fired.

“Doing nothing is not an option.”

This was the opening speech of the 2012 campaign, and it was a stemwinder. It was fine to John Boenher not applaud when Obama suggested that it was time for Congress to live up to its responsibilities.

The theme was jobs, jobs, jobs.

And here’s the FDR part:

I reject the idea that we need to ask people to choose between their jobs and their safety. I reject the argument that says for the economy to grow, we have to roll back protections that ban hidden fees by credit card companies, or rules that keep our kids from being exposed to mercury, or laws that prevent the health insurance industry from shortchanging patients. I reject the idea that we have to strip away collective bargaining rights to compete in a global economy. We shouldn’t be in a race to the bottom, where we try to offer the cheapest labor and the worst pollution standards. America should be in a race to the top. And I believe that’s a race we can win.

In fact, this larger notion that the only thing we can do to restore prosperity is just dismantle government, refund everyone’s money, let everyone write their own rules, and tell everyone they’re on their own – that’s not who we are. That’s not the story of America.

Yes, we are rugged individualists. Yes, we are strong and self-reliant. And it has been the drive and initiative of our workers and entrepreneurs that has made this economy the engine and envy of the world.

But there has always been another thread running throughout our history – a belief that we are all connected; and that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation.

We all remember Abraham Lincoln as the leader who saved our Union. But in the middle of a Civil War, he was also a leader who looked to the future – a Republican president who mobilized government to build the transcontinental railroad; launch the National Academy of Sciences; and set up the first land grant colleges. And leaders of both parties have followed the example he set.

Ask yourselves – where would we be right now if the people who sat here before us decided not to build our highways and our bridges; our dams and our airports? What would this country be like if we had chosen not to spend money on public high schools, or research universities, or community colleges? Millions of returning heroes, including my grandfather, had the opportunity to go to school because of the GI Bill. Where would we be if they hadn’t had that chance?

How many jobs would it have cost us if past Congresses decided not to support the basic research that led to the Internet and the computer chip? What kind of country would this be if this Chamber had voted down Social Security or Medicare just because it violated some rigid idea about what government could or could not do? How many Americans would have suffered as a result?

No single individual built America on their own. We built it together.

My favorite comment so far: “Can anyone ever remember seeing Obama this angry before?”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

63 thoughts on “Barack Obama, Democrat”

  1. Perhaps a nitpick but I wonder what this part of the speech means with respect to the recent ozone decision: “I reject the idea that we need to ask people to choose between their jobs and their safety.”

    We don’t need to ask people to make that choice because I will make it for them?

  2. Marc, it might help if you could explain with numbers how I am wrong about the still relatively small infrastructure proposal Obama has presented. My count shows 20% for infrastructure out of the $447 billion. That’s a small improvement over the previous stimulus. The centerpiece, according to the Washington Post, is the payroll tax cut (over 40%), which is a gimmick at best, and worst, undermines further the longer term health of Social Security and Medicare as it will now become more difficult to go back to the earlier rate.

    We still have several thousand troops in Iraq, and I mentioned Afghanistan as well as Iraq.

    Luckily, a lot of other commenters are able to see through your FoxNews tactics.

    As for a primary, just because something did not work before is not enough of an argument when we are faced with the highly likely prospect of Obama losing. Might as well have told Madison and Hamilton not to try to promote a Constitutional Convention…or told FDR there was nothing he could do to stop the Depression, since Hoover had already tried the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. It’s worth talking about in 2011 instead of just assuming we have no choice. That’s all I’m saying, and if that really bothers you, perhaps Obamabot is your proper designation.

  3. Uh-oh. If people start throwing around terms like “Fox News,” Mark will get mad at us.

    Got to stay civil. ; >

  4. Mitchell: oddly, you’ve adopted some of the rhetorical strategies of the radical right here, and yet you’re using them against like-minded Democrats and progressives. For instance, calling those who have nuanced disagreements with you (but who generally agree) Obamabots, and accusing them of FoxNews tactics.

    All proves my points made in earlier comments.

  5. Whoa Marc, did I strike a nerve? Hehe. Good.

    “I’m saying that we have a 2 party system, and that for many years I’ve worked to elect people more conservative than I am.”

    How’s that working out Marc? Who’s the tool here, and to whom?

    That light blue lines in the linked graphs is me and people like me for the last thirty years. A disproportionate share of the people in my town are represented by the dark blue lines. What have the Democrats done to ameliorate that trend. Oh yeah, I know, the Republicans have control of congress and that constrains the president, except for for those times when a Republican in the White House constrains a Democratically control congress. Sweet how that works, huh. Working to get the least conservative guy elected, that’s really setting the bar high. And we have the thirty-plus year trend in income distribution to show for it. Yay Democrats!

    Finally, throughout this thread you’ve hit most, if not all, of the Obama campaign talking points. Here’s a simple direct question: Yes or no, are you compensated in any way by the Obama campaign, the Democratic Party and/or any of their sub contractors?

  6. Matt,

    FoxNews tactics are to distort what someone says and attack the distortion. Marc’s response to me was to distort what I said about Afghanistan and Iraq, as if I was only talking about Iraq, and was somehow unaware that there was a drawdown in troops in Iraq– as if the thousands of troops still remaining, and the noise from the military and Panetta to get more troops in there should simply be ignored. Marc opened his attack on me saying that I did not know what Obama had said in his speech, when he showed no sign of understanding what Obama was actually proposing other than the headline “$447 billion.” So, I answered and gave him at least as good as I got.

    As for my use of the term Obamabots in my initial comment, I’ll plead mea culpa, but that is more my reaction to the earlier incessant personal attacks leveled against folks like me for daring to say Obama has been a weak leader. Take the attack that folks like me should get off our butts and do something. I’d like to know what Obama lovers have done in terms of activism that the lefties and such who are disappointed in Obama have not done. From what I have seen, in rallies I’ve attended, and during the 2010 election, it was folks more to my worldview who showed up on street corners or made calls to people in our home and other states to ensure Democrats would vote. The failure, however, remains broad and institutional, as MoveOn can never replicate a national union. That is why a transformational Democratic Party leadership would have led with union law reform in 2009, just as Republican governors went after public employee unions in order to undermine an important component of the Democratic Party’s funding base.

    Matt reminds me of the basketball or hockey ref who sees the pushback and misses the original push. My response is not “odd”, Matt. What is sad is that what will be most remembered by historians of this time is the lack of will among the elites to step forward to deal with the decay of our infrastructure and the economic decline of our nation following its deindustrialization. There has yet to be a Lincoln or FDR to show up here, and take on the challenge and lead. That is what we are arguing about in 2011. By 2012, if Obama is renominated, as it appears he will be at least right now, I believe we will begin to regret not replacing him during this season.

  7. “When you find yourself in the bottom of a hole, stop digging.” Doing nothing must always be an option, Mark, as doing the wrong thing is frequently worse than doing nothing.

    According to standard economic doctrine, the economy eventually recovers from recessions without doing anything. The economy we’ve experienced over the last few years isn’t just worse than was projected if we got the stimulus we did. It’s worse than was projected if we got no stimulus at all. (The stimulus was just supposed to accelerate a recovery which would happen anyway.)

    At some point you have to admit that your economic models aren’t working. That the policies based on them aren’t working. Ideally you figure out that bleeding people for anemia doesn’t work before the patient is bled completely dry.

  8. I didn’t listen……stopped listening during the Clinton years. BUT….based on what I hear all I can say is “’bout damned time!” Now I worry that the republicans will say BOOH! and he’ll revert back to the old ways. Good start…..let’s see some more.

  9. Brett Bellmore: “According to standard economic doctrine, the economy eventually recovers from recessions without doing anything.”

    But, as Keynes famously reminded us, “in the long run we are all dead.” Sure, the economy won’t remain depressed forever even if we do nothing, but people are hurting in the mean time.

    Bellmore again: “The economy we’ve experienced over the last few years isn’t just worse than was projected if we got the stimulus we did. It’s worse than was projected if we got no stimulus at all. (The stimulus was just supposed to accelerate a recovery which would happen anyway.)”

    The fact that the art of economic projection isn’t perfect is no excuse for passivity in the face of major economic hardship. Here are the percentage changes in read quarterly GDP, from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. It isn’t hard to see when the stimuls was passed:

    2008 -1.8% 1.3% -3.7% -8.9%
    2009 -6.7% -0.7% 1.7% 3.8%
    2010 3.9% 3.8% 2.5% 2.3%

  10. Welcome to Mark Kleiman’s Bizarroworld, where the people who are actually working to move the Ds right accuse those who don’t want them to do that any more of… doing the work of the right.

  11. Let try again, since this comment seems to have gotten lost.

    * * *

    Welcome to Mark Kleiman’s Bizarro World, where the people who are actually working to move the Ds right accuse those who don’t want them to do that any more of… doing the work of the right.

  12. “The fact that the art of economic projection isn’t perfect”

    Isn’t “perfect”? How about trying to hit things within 50%?

    Setting aside that Keynes “long run” remark is the American version of “Après moi le déluge”, nothing more than an excuse to screw over the next generation, the ‘long run’ we’re talking about here isn’t my 3 year old’s retirement age, we’re at that “long run” now, from the vantage of 2009. The recession was supposed to be over by now without a stimulus. Our “with stimulus” economy is considerably worse than the “without stimulus” projection.

    But I guess everybody here is still in a mood to keep bleeding the patient.

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