Obama’s agenda

“Cliff” speech mentions immigration, global warming, infrastructure, and gun violence.

A couple of things to note from the President’s statement after the House stepped back from the cliff (other than his strong reiteration of a refusal to deal about the debt ceiling, which he correctly identified as whether the Congress would renege on paying the bills for spending the Congress had ordered): his list of topics other than the budget that need the country’s attention included immigration, climate change, infrastructure, and gun violence.

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: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

25 thoughts on “Obama’s agenda”

  1. his list of topics other than the budget that need the country’s attention included immigration, climate change, infrastructure, and gun violence.

    None of which will be passing or even coming up for a vote in the house, until at least 1/3/2015, or 1/3/2017. Meantime, he gets to deal with being impeached (not that that won’t be a pointless dog and pony show).

    [‘His leverage is gone.’]

    1. max writes: Meantime, he gets to deal with being impeached

      Not going to happen, though I suppose in some sense it would be entertaining to watch the GOP torpedo their own otherwise-excellent chances of doing well in the 2014 elections.

      1. I agree. The GOP was basically on life-support in 2008 and Obama choose not to pull the plug on them. Indeed, it has been Obama bipartisanship fetish that has revived and energized the Republicans. Why kill the goose that lays the golden eggs?

  2. I’m pretty darn sure he didn’t run on all those things. In fact, had he, the election might very well have come out differently.

    1. I’m pretty sure he actually did run on all those things. Obama governed and advocated for the center-right but ran left for reelection because he was in trouble. If he’d continued to run to the right, he would’ve lost the general election. The Great Orange Satan did an analysis of the polls that showed Obama running stronger when he attacked the GOP and defended Medicare and Social Security and weaker when he kept trying to get to Mittens’s right.

      If he’d run for reelection saying that he intended keep folding like a cheap suit, it’s possible that the election might have turned out differently but I doubt it. Mittens was a terrible candidate, he ran a hard right campaign and his running mate was the guy who wants grandma to eat cat food. Obama was always the significantly lesser evil.

    2. You can’t be asking him to implement what Romney ran on, because the voters definitely rejected that.

      1. “You can’t be asking him to implement what Romney ran on, because the voters definitely rejected that”

        Can’t say I’ve never noticed any reluctance on the part of Democrats to demand that elected Republicans govern according to their opponents’ policies. Isn’t that what you mean by “bipartisanship” and “compromise”?

        But, no, I was simply suggesting that I would have prefered Obama to campaign on what he actually planned to do after the election: Amnesties for illegal immigrants, gun control, and so forth. The stuff he stayed mum about because it was political poison.

        1. Brett, were you inside Obama’s head 24/7 before the election – I mean literally, not metaphorically, of course. I only ask because of your metaphysical certitude about Obama’s campaign plans and their divergence from what he planned to do.

          1. I judge what people planned to do before elections, by what they set out to do after them. That’s not mind reading, that’s just not ignoring the best evidence.

  3. Leverage? What’s that?

    Brett, regarding the latter, come out of the bunker. Something happened on December 14th to put that subject front and center. The others? You are probably correct, especially on climate change. And that is because the GOP has become a demented remnant of the serious political party it once was.

  4. No, its because he wanted to be reelected. As his opponents expected, as soon as he had the election behind him, he adopted an agenda the voters would have rejected if given advance notice.

    Well, he got reelected anyway, the voters have spoken, and are about to get what they voted for, even if they didn’t realize what it was. Wish I believed they’d learn something from this.

    1. Brett, I fear your wish is simply an idle dream. Put some flesh on it’s bare bones:

      “I wish the voters could deal with multiple complex issues simultaneously. I wish important elections didn’t have to be dumbed down to simplistic binary choices. I wish the voters could have even a rudimentary appreciation of ‘unintended side effects.’ I wish elections didn’t always have to become a blizzard of advertising of no more utility in decision making than ‘He’s terrible, so vote for me.’ ”

      So even though you and I see many issues from a different angle, I’m resigned to the fact that for both of us, this is where our democracy has taken us, and in our remaining lifetime our wish for otherwise is just an idle dream.

    2. If you are going to argue that the election would have gone differently had Obama laid out his agenda carefully during the campaign, you have to also assume that Romney would have laid out his in equal honesty and detail.

      Do that, and Obama wins in a walk.

    3. Brett,

      I actually agree with you, in a warped sort of way. I just think you’re seeing the world upside-down. When Obama ran a lackluster campaign designed to please David Brooks, he polled badly and his reelection was hanging by a thread. When he began to support Medicare and Social Security and stopped talking about how important it was to cut them, he polled very strongly and won the election easily. Now, he gone back to the old Obama talking about how cuts to the social safety net have to be part of his beloved “grand bargain” and giving away the store to the Republicans.

      Regrettably, there’s no lesson to be learned from all this. The election was a binary choice and Obama was by far and away the lesser evil. I voted for him and hoped he’d learned and would be better this time around. I was wrong but, from my perspective, was there every any choice?

    4. Boy, I can just imagine Brett’s full-throated outrage at how BushCo goverened differently than what they campaigned on (but how you can operationalize a Swift Boat or Orange Alert is beyond me).

  5. It’s sometimes hard to see what’s right in front of your face. 85 GOP Reps voted with Obama for a very large tax increase on the wealthy. Obama assembled a governing majority of less-crazy Republcans and less-progressive Democrats. And despite all the feints and trial balloons, he did it without giving up anything on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Whether Boehner or Cantor is Speaker, the House GOP caucus is split and divided.

    Everything on Obama’s agenda becomes more possible today.

    1. Tom, I wish I believed what you wrote about those 85 GOP Reps. I fear it’s the contrapositive though–those 85 saw the handwriting on the wall that if they held to their Grover Norquist fanaticism, they would be blamed by the American Public for “raising the taxes” on ALL of us. Remember, that absurdly named “fiscal cliff” was the consequence of legislation passed by both houses of Congress at a time when the Dems controlled the Senate and the Reps controlled the House. Neither side could escape blame if we fell off the cliff.

      1. Plus, they really had no leverage since the Bush tax cuts would expire unless Obama agreed to extend them. They basically traded a few short term things Obama wanted in return for saving the bulk of the Bush era tax rates. Considering that they had no cards to play, I think they did remarkably well. Now, Obama doesn’t have that same leverage and he’s demonstrated once again that he will make significant concessions because he wants a deal (any deal, really) far more than his opponents. And in the case of the “debt ceiling,” he really does need a deal at almost any cost because the consequences of not making a deal are potentially catastrophic (Which he why he needed to make absolutely certain that the “debt ceiling” was a part of this deal; if we take Obama’s claims about not really wanting to cut social security and medicare at face value, he may have made a terrible mistake.

        I don’t see any way for him to take his previous offers off the table and he’s the one under the gun this time, anyway. Maybe he can pretend to allocate those cuts to some other budget negotiation that is taking place simultaneously but that a fig leaf for him, not a way to save social programs from the knife. Tight-weak never wins. We’ll be lucky to get out of the Obama era with the New Deal largely intact.

    2. Except that Obama didn’t get anything of lasting significance in return for which he basically extended the Bush tax cuts with a few modifications. What the Democrats ‘got” will mainly go away next year. What the Republicans “got” is that the Bush tax rates have now been extended twice and are now baked in to the structure of the political system.

      More importantly, all of the substantive decisions such as spending and the debit ceiling have been deferred until a time when Obama won’t have nearly as much leverage and probably none at all. At which point, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will be back on the table. There was no reason for Obama to fold, yet again. He had tremendous leverage, his had an absolute veto over any outcome he didn’t like and, most importantly, he didn’t need the Congress to achieve probably ninety-percent of what he supposedly wanted. Remember, if there was no deal, Obama won by default because all the spending was cut and the Bush taxes cuts were simply gone.

      The GOP is the house may look like they’re in disarray (and maybe they are) but they conceded remarkably little for people who were totally under the gun. They had absolutely no bargaining power. It was impossible for them to alter the outcome of the negotiations because (unlike the previous debit ceiling crisis in 2011) their assent was not required at all. If they walked away from the table, they lost everything. If Obama walked away, he won almost everything and improved his bargaining position for the next round of negotiations. Yet, the GOP in the House didn’t budge and from that point forward, the entire focus of media attention and of Obama’s strategy was how to move the negotiations sufficiently in the direction preferred by conservatives so as to assemble a collation of conservatives Republicans and use his position as leader of the Democratic party to force a majority of Democrats to give the Republican as much of what they wanted as possible.

      Obama’s leverage is simply gone. Now, whatever is done on the spending and debit ceiling needs Congressional approval. He had the strongest hand an Democratic president has had since LBJ and he folded like a cheap suit. How does this make everything on Obama’s agenda more possible today? (Unless you think,as I actually do, that Obama’s agenda is basically to move the country further to the right and cut Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid).

  6. I don’t know how important Obama thought the extension of the production tax credit for wind and geothermal energy was, but it’s certainly one of the liberal goodies for which he traded the tax rise on the $250,000 – $450,000 bracket.

    It’s usually described as a one-year extension but in fact it’s much more. The definition of eligible project has shifted from one completed before January 1 2014 to one where construction has started by then. For wind, that means another 6 months or so, maybe more with a good bulldozer and tax lawyer. For geothermal, perhaps another 2 years, since projects take a long time – a very big difference, in fact the first usable subsidy. (Harry Reid is from Nevada and a geothermal fan like me.) Giant full text pdf, page 70, section 407.

    1. Colorado is breathing a sigh of relief, as much effort was expended to expand the manufacturing base here by attracting wind and solar firms. Soon, 10% of Xcel’s portfolio will be from wind, much of it built locally in cleantech buildings. If I can get the funding together, I’ll peripherally serve the wind industry in a couple of years – and I’m far from the only spillover from these industries.

  7. Clearly he didn’t think it important enough to bother signing right away. I wish I could be amazed that Boehner catches flack for delaying a vote on a pork stuffed “emergency” bill, and Obama doesn’t catch it for flying back to Hawaii, (Did he actually do anything to justify $3 million in air fare?) without bothering to sign the bill he supposedly flew in over.

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