June 17, 2014

Obama, Krugman, critics and straw men

Paul Krugman is usually better as a pundit, even when talking economics, and definitely when talking broader issues, when he's not trying to simultaneously defend the presidential accomplishments of Barack Obama.

Which he has just done again.


First, while I'm not as much an Obamacare skeptic as I once was, I'm still not doing cartwheels, or even half rounds, over it. Not even as a Johnny come lately. Sorry, Paul, but I think the jury is still out more than you do, especially when heavyweight insurance companies within America's Health Insurance Plans, the industry's DC lobbying shop, recently asked for catastrophic-only "lead" plans (my word) to be OK for Obamacare funding along with bronze, silver, gold, platinum, titanium, uranium and whatever else.

In other words, insurers are saying that costs are going to continue rising a fair amount, and a lot of self-employeds, or people dumped out of company plans, may well only want to pay for, and feel comfortable paying for, a catastrophic only play.

Second is the Obama EPA's new carbon control policy on coal-fired power plants. Couple of caveats here. First, as news outlets reported last week, the EPA is once again trying to get the press to let science and technology experts in the department, not just spokescritters and administrators, go "on background" on this issue. Red flag. Second, the cuts include some that are already in progress.

Third is the straw man part. Here's Krugman:
So why all the bad press?

Part of the answer may be Mr. Obama’s relatively low approval rating. But this mainly reflects political polarization — strong approval from Democrats but universal opposition from Republicans — which is more a sign of the times than a problem with the president. Anyway, you’re supposed to judge presidents by what they do, not by fickle public opinion.

A larger answer, I’d guess, is Simpson-Bowles syndrome — the belief that good things must come in bipartisan packages, and that fiscal probity is the overriding issue of our times. This syndrome persists among many self-proclaimed centrists even though it’s overwhelmingly clear to anyone who has been paying attention that (a) today’s Republicans simply will not compromise with a Democratic president, and (b) the alleged fiscal crisis was vastly overblown.

The result of the syndrome’s continuing grip is that Mr. Obama’s big achievements don’t register with much of the Washington establishment: he was supposed to save the budget, not the planet, and somehow he was supposed to bring Republicans along.
What a laugher.

If anything, this description fits Obama himself to a T — a centrist who is still, nearly halfway through his second term, trying to get the GOP to sing Kumbaya with him.

A double laugher is that Krugman ignores all the ways Obama has extended, or even expanded, Bush's National Security State.

Krugman's not yet in the territory of reliable partisan hack within the two-party system, but he's getting closer and closer.

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