Is Obama about to become post-post-partisan?

Can’t come soon enough for me:

The President’s first priority is to work with Republicans and Democrats to grow the economy, create jobs and reduce the deficit, but if the Republican House continues its ‘my way or the highway’ approach, he will make sure the public knows who is standing in the way and why.

WH communications director Dan Pfeiffer

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

22 thoughts on “Pivot?”

  1. > Really chrismealy? Not being sarcastic. Would really
    > like for someone to prove that to me.

    Duncan Black (Atrios) posts quotes and links every month or so. He has a good one earlier this week with a specific White House quote on “pivot to jobs” from August 2010.


  2. Yes, as the commenters are implying, this is just rhetoric. The real answer is what Obama is proposing. See here:

    http://www.calculatedriskblog.com/2011/08/white-house-debates-doing-little-or.html, citing a definitive NY Times article from the other day. Sigh.

    The Democrats need to start loudly saying that Obama should get on television, and announce he is not running for re-election. He has failed and even Mark Kleiman knows it, though I am not sure he is ready to admit it yet. Obama has been reactive, not transformative. Worse, he refuses to be transformative, and yet that was the essence of his 2008 election soundbites of “Yes, we can” and “hope and change.” It is time for Obama–and Biden–to step aside. Since he or they won’t, a primary challenge is what is needed.

    Otherwise, Obama is acting in a fatally arrogant way, like Hoover, and he will cause the Democrats to lose the White House, even possibly to a wingnut, who are legion among the declared national candidates. It is not enough to run for re-election on “The Republicans are worse.” The twenty percent of independent voters he and his tonedeaf advisers are trying to speak are low information voters with short term memories. They are binary voters who will just vote for the other guy, and “give him or her a try.” That’s how Obama got elected in 2008 in many ways, and it is how he will be un-elected unless we nominate someone who truly believes in New Deal values and policies, which are the right prescription at this time.

  3. Readers of Atrios already caught this one:

    “President Barack Obama on Friday made his promised hard pivot to jobs, following up the morning’s news about a 10 percent unemployment rate by announcing $2.3 billion in tax credits for clean-energy jobs.”
    from January, 2010

    He will do nothing, the only question is what pose he will strike while doing nothing.

  4. Part of the problem is that Obama doesn’t believe there’s anything he can do about jobs. I don’t mean politically, I mean economically. Thus words and gestures but no real action. Perhaps if unemployment was 25% he’d go the WPA route; but it’s only 9% so too bad for us.

  5. Obama’s going to renounce his budget deal, admit that the stimulus was way too small to begin with, push for massive spending increases for as long as the liquidity trap remains in place, institute regulations requiring immediate foreclosure or principal reductions on underwater mortgages so as to get rid of household debt overhang and get people to start spending again, and recess appoint people to the Fed who aren’t scared by the imaginary inflation monster under their beds? Really, he’s going to do these things? He’s going to pivot towards jobs?

    I’ll believe it when I see it.

    Obama’s going to yammer aimlessly about jobs, never once proposing anything that has any chance of actually doing something about the jobs situation. Obama’s plan for jobs is to do nothing but cheerlead, hope that they materialize out of the ether, and take false credit for it if they do. If you think he has more of a plan than that, you’re not reality based.

  6. But if the Republicans don’t cooperate and “pivot” along with him, he’ll give a sternly worded speech telling us they’re getting in the way. That’ll fix it. I mean, we heard it straight from the lips of Dan Pfeiffer.

  7. Is there anything that Obama can plausibly do at this point? He’s waited too long, and the GOP is very unlikely to let him get away with anything that works. They’re perfectly happy to let the economy go to hell if it means even a slightly better chance of defeating Obama in ’12.

  8. It’s more than the fact that the Republicans will block him at every turn. To create jobs he’d have to stimulate the economy, and he’s spent the last year or so talking about the importance of cutting government spending. Which is the opposite of stimulating the economy. So he’d have to completely reverse himself, admit that what he’s been saying flies in the face of basic macroeconomics, and THEN ask Congress to pass a bill.

  9. I don’t know what Obama can plausibly do, but I know what he could do that I would applaud:

    “My fellow taxpayers”, he would say, “I am here to announce that the Bush tax cuts will definitely expire at the end of next year. The Republicans originally voted for them to expire at the end of 2010. I agreed to extend them until the end of 2012. Whether you re-elect me or not, I will still be President at the end of 2012, and I will veto any attempt to extend the Bush tax cuts again.

    Between now and the election, I demand that Congress pass a permanent tax cut for people making under a quarter of a million dollars a year. Some pundit will immediately call it “the Obama tax cut”, and you know what that means: it means the Republicans will oppose it. Mark my words: Republicans will oppose a tax cut for you, because it will not cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires.

    Of course, the Republicans will tell you that if you elect one of them President, he or she will make the Bush tax cuts permanent for millionaires and billionaires. For you too, just incidentally. But if they cared about cutting your taxes they would not oppose my proposal to cut your taxes, would they?

    So: there will be no extension of the Bush tax cuts before they expire, because I will veto it. There will be no “Obama tax cut” before the election, because the Republicans will refuse to pass it in Congress. If you’re a millionaire or billionaire who just can’t scrape by without a tax cut in 2013 and afterwards, your best bet is to elect a Republican president. If you’re living large on fifty, or a hundred, or two hundred grand a year but don’t want your tax rates to go up, your best bet is to elect a Democratic Congress that will pass the “Obama tax cut” first thing in January 2013. If they pass it before January 20th, I will sign it whether I have been re-elected or not.

    Thank you. Tip your waitresses. I’ll be here all week.”

    Yeah, I know: what matters is “jobs, jobs, jobs” and here I am fantasizing about Obama talking tax cuts. Two justifications: 1)It is my sincere belief that raising taxes on millionaires and billionaires will, all by itself, “create jobs”; and 2)The only way Obama can do something about “jobs” is to turn the electorate against Republican obstructionism. Republican obstructionism in general is a nebulous theme. Republican obstructionism on middle-class tax cuts would be so clear and obvious, even “independents” would be able to grok it.


  10. I especially like <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/14/us/politics/14econ.html?pagewanted=2&_r=2&quot;.this "idea":

    The administration may also merge the Department of Commerce, the Office of the United States Trade Representative and some economic divisions at the State Department into a new agency, administration officials said. Possible names include the Department of Jobs….

    So we’ll get a “Department of Jobs” that includes the Department of Corporate Welfare, the Chief Facilitator of Outsourcing and blah, blah the State Department but does not include anything the Department of Labor might offer. The meta-message here is telling, no?

  11. Then there’s the whole “debate” over how far reaching the ideas should be. We have, on one side, the realism and pragmatism of Plouffe and Daley and, on the other side, Sperling and Romer with their relative boldness.

    Press Secretary Jay Carney leaves no doubt as to where the president stands:

    If you’re talking about a stunt, I don’t think a stunt is what the American people are looking for.

    So, the formulation here is bold=can’t be passed=stunt. Carney’s choice of words is also telling. It shows me that the administration understands that a tax break to businesses for hiring employees (who will have nothing to do since this proposal does nothing to stimulate aggregate demand) is pointless from a strictly economic perspective. Very few businesses will take advantage of it. That they are repeatedly floating the idea anyway shows that they recognize the political value in appearing to debate alternatives. As the article’s writer puts it:

    …better to do something than nothing….

    This is where Obama shows yet another tell. The bold ideas of Sperling and Romer, which aren’t really being considered, and which aren’t really all that bold, do define the leftmost boundary of seriousness. This keeps a plethora of unpalatable alternative ideas, ideas that when polled have broad popular support, safely out of sight and out of mind.

  12. @jm–Department of Labor’s Mission Statement, just for da record: “To foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.” You’re right, not including DOL is quite a meta-message.

    Incidentally, the other suggested name for the new department, according to the Times story, is “Department of Competitiveness.”

    The jaw drops. The eyes cross.

  13. So mealy-mouthed Obama has gone from threatening Cantor in closed door meetings:

    Obama reportedly told Cantor that he’d veto such a bill – and that he was prepared to “take it to the American people.”

    To having a lackey do the threatening:

    the Republican House continues its ‘my way or the highway’ approach, he will make sure the public knows who is standing in the way and why.”

    This is progress? In what reality?
    What I see is more of the same: a four-flush President begging to have more sand kicked in his eyes.

    I mean really? Threatening over and over to take the argument to “the people” in a democracy?
    WTF? Democracy is supposed to be about the marketplace of ideas doing battle…
    Instead we’ve got a dog that doesn’t bark, doesn’t hunt, lays in bed, and threatens to growl in some far flung future.

    Bah Humdog…
    Out with this bum.

  14. Tony P, whatever the political ramifications of your dream statement, the economic reality of decoupling (which Republicans of all stripes will fight to the death) is that there is little or no money in raising the nominal tax rates on the wealthy, who by and large are taxed at the AMT rate. All that will do is shift their taxes from form 6251 to 1040, with little or no net gain to the Treasury. On the other hand, middle income taxpayers will be hammered when their Bush cut (and they actually got the big cut) expires. So the Treasury will gain, but the economy will suffer, and middle income voters will understand that they were sacrificed on the altar of Progressives’ warped concept of “fairness.”

    Obama is no genius but he and his cronies get that and they are in no more mood to play that game of chicken now (or in 2012) than they were in 2010. I think it is already registering with the Administration that their class warfare rhetoric is not playing well to middle income folks, many of whom aspire to make in excess of 250,000 some day themselves.

    A sharp eye will and should point out that if the wealthy crowd is pretty much immune from higher taxes because of the AMT, they should not object to their “Bush tax cut” expiring. That’s why there should be common ground for discussion around tax reform which should make the AMT obsolete. But increasingly, that looks like a post 2012 discussion.

  15. Redwave72 gives us so much material to work with I don’t know where to start. How about this:

    not playing well to middle income folks, many of whom aspire to make in excess of 250,000 some day themselves

    Horror stories from RedWorld:

    “I was working an office job and looking toward the day when I could move into a job earning over $250,000 a year. But then they raised taxes so I said ‘f*ck it’.”

    “I was offered a promotion where I would have been making over $250,000 a year with work that was more prestigious, influential, challenging and interesting. But then I looked at the tax bill and even though I was still looking at a net gain, I said ‘f*ck it’.”

  16. Tim,

    You missed the point. You think it’s about whether people can afford to pay more taxes, as if it starts out being the government’s money.

    My point is, what are folks’ aspirations – and how do they feel about being in the progressives’ crosshairs if they make it? This country has always been about having the opportunity to make it, and make it big. Why do you think people buy lottery tickets (which they can’t afford) when they have a better chance of being hit by lightning than winning? Class warfare is simply a losing argument. Forget whether it’s rational, it just is.

    Why do you think so many of the new businesses and sole proprietorships are being started by immigrants and their children? They are not resigned to just making a living. They are thinking bigger, and working their tails off to succeed. That’s the American way. And they sure as heck don’t like to give half or more of what they earn back in taxes, no matter how much they net and whether it’s sufficient to live on.

    As for the people like you who seem to have no hope of making it, well, I guess you’re in the 39% that still approve of the job the President is doing. For them, redistribution, and maybe Federal grant money, is the aspiration. Yeesh, what a way to live.

    Frankly, I hope Obama keeps on the path he’s going. At this rate, he’ll be in GWB territory by Nov., 2012. Not to mention JEC!

  17. Redwave,

    I don’t know whether you have “made it” yourself, but most observers agree that Warren Buffett has. And he says that class warfare is happening and his class is winning. But that seems irrelevant to your point that “Class warfare is simply a losing argument. Forget whether it’s rational, it just is.” People in the not-winning class, you seem to assert, don’t care about rationality. If you’re right, that would go some way to explaining why they’re in the not-winning class.


  18. My point is that tax rates almost never factor into peoples’ aspirations.

    Class warfare is simply a losing argument.

    Utterly wrong. Witness the class war the rich have been waging and winning against the poor and middle class over the last 30+ years.

    As for the people like you who seem to have no hope of making it, well, I guess you’re in the 39% that still approve of the job the President is doing.

    Well that had to be emotionally satisfying. Enjoy.

Comments are closed.