Monday, July 18, 2011

Blinded, Following The Leader

But Dylan Matthews, wrong about Chip Cravaack, is right about a more important, immediate issue- the debt ceiling. Not fooled, he recognizes

it’d also be smart politics for Obama to insist on full elimination of the debt ceiling, rather than a temporary increase. The current setup means that every year he needs the House GOP to sign on to both a budget and/or continuing resolution AND an increase in the debt ceiling. That means two occasions every year where John Boehner has leverage to demand policy changes. Eliminating the debt ceiling would cut in half the number of standoffs like that.

Then again, it’s also possible that Obama wants Boehner to have leverage, as Obama’s policy preferences lie to the right of those of House Democrats, and giving Boehner more power allows him to sell cuts to his party that it otherwise would not support. In that case it would make perfect sense for Obama to not push to eliminate the debt ceiling entirely.

But why, oh why would Barack Obama, he of "change you can believe in" and "si, se puede" possess "policy preferences (which) lie to the right" of most House Democrats and strive to impart to a conservative Republican more power? Perhaps for the same reason that President Obama has rejected the suggestion that he invoke Section 4 of the 14th Amendment and declare the debt ceiling unconstitutional. It's completely consistent with President Obama's predictable, yet reprehensible, decision to pass over Elizabeth Warren as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which led Matt Stoller to contrast the Harvard (busines) law professor and former chairperson of the Congressional Oversight Panel

with Barack Obama, a person who never fails to wrap his true agenda in gauzy opaque process jargon. Obama won’t back his own NLRB or Boeing workers, or even Boeing itself; he thinks that neither side should waste time in court. He won’t announce Social Security or Medicare cuts, he wants it to be part of a Grand Bargain for whom no one has to take responsibility. He demands an end to earmarks, or something, but we need an infrastructure bank or something. As a result, the Democratic Party is enmeshed right now in a guessing game about the true goals of their leader, paralyzed and unable to govern. When Warren is present, by contrast, the Republicans are able to argue strongly that they do not believe in government as an agent of good, while Democrats are able to articulate the opposite. It’s a real, open, honest debate. There’s no sliding around with 11 dimensional chess nonsense, it’s straight up democracy.

We know Barack Obama wants to be a transformational president but, with his goals unclear, it's still somewhat uncertain what transformation he's aiming for. Nevertheless, there is little reason to put any faith in congressional Democrats exercising independent judgement once the President and congressional Republicans come to an agreement on how to sink the economy.

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