October 31, 2012

Jon Chait fellates Obama

Actually, it’s really no surprise that Chait, a definite neoliberal most comfortable at about The New Republic’s political slant, would claim that Dear Leader is a “great” president, let alone make a claim like this:
Obama can boast a record of accomplishment that bests any president since Roosevelt, and has fewer demerits on his record than any of them, including Roosevelt.
That’s arguable at best. Chait says that LBJ’s accomplishments were offset by Vietnam without bothering to discuss whether they were greater or not.

And, if we use “greater” in terms of political realignment rather than “better for America,” Reagan had greater accomplishments, indeed. In fact, it’s Reagan, the Reagan whom Obama praised in 2008, that set constraints on what future Democratic presidents have tried to do, for the good, while bolstering some of what Democrats have done for the bad financially, like throwing out Glass-Steagall in Clinton’s reign, and Obama hiring Clinton’s finacial advisers and their followers, like Tim Geithner, quite possibly an unconvicted criminal.

And, while we’re on it, let’s not forget that Reagan, for worse rather than better, established the modern imperial presidency that thumbed its nose at Congress and the Constitution on war-making.

And, that leads to this.

Reality? Chait lists not one of Obama’s real “demerits,” such as expanding drone killings even to US citizens; calling anybody killed by a drone a “military target,” being more ruthless than Bush about “plugging leaks,” the shameful treatment of Bradley Manning, etc. And, all of that stems from St. Ronald of Reagan and his “record of accomplishment.”

He then, to excuse, I guess, Obama not doing more on anti-recession stimulus and other things, pens this:
How can a president “work his will” in such a way as to force autonomous members of the opposite party controlling a co-equal branch of government to sacrifice their own calculated self-interest?
Simple. Peeling off people where possible.

With the modern Senate, pushing Harry Reid to actually challenge a filibuster threat.

Making more use of recess appointments.

And, on that stimulus packages, several things:
1. Not using Clinton retreads who underestimated the size of the problem, and the size of the solution needed;
2. Listening to outsiders like Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz who knew better;
3. Not “compromising away the compromise” for what he did decide to do, as Rahm Emanuel actually did, just to come in under $1 trillion.

Now, let’s look at Obama’s signature accomplishment of Obamacare.

First, since so much of it was backloaded to 2014 effective date, the jury’s largely still out.

Second, I’ve argued that, contra Chait, the cost controls in Obamacare aren’t as much as they are touted to be. And, given that Congress continually votes to cut Medicare payments to doctors, then takes that back every year, who’s to say how many of these cost containment items will stay in place?

Third, Obama didn’t take charge of this issue from the start, to some degree, and to an additional degree, he let known neoliberals, like “Mod Max” Baucus in the Senate run the show.

To be honest, given the circumstances, overall, I’d probably give Obama a “gentleman’s B” on domestic policy, NOT counting civil liberties issues. Note the “gentleman’s” part and that caveat.

The rest of his work? Let’s discount the actual value of killing bin Laden and give Dear Leader a straight D.

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