What Fresh Hell Is This?

July 29, 2011

President Obama, Moderate Conservative?

You guys know Ed, right?

He blogs over at Cognitive Dissonance and he's doing a stand up job every week (far more than I am at this point, by the way) at countering Jack Kelly's conservative drivel over at the P-G. If you're not reading his blog, you should. It's pretty darn good. The bastard.

Anyhoo, he sent me a link to Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman linking to Regan economic advisor Bruce Bartlett who's asserting:
Liberals hoped that Obama would overturn conservative policies and launch a new era of government activism. Although Republicans routinely accuse him of being a socialist, an honest examination of his presidency must conclude that he has in fact been moderately conservative to exactly the same degree that Nixon was moderately liberal.
The rest of Bartlett's piece is evidence of Obama's non-Liberalness for example:
  • His stimulus bill was half the size that his advisers thought necessary;
  • He continued Bush’s war and national security policies without change and even retained Bush’s defense secretary;
  • He put forward a health plan almost identical to those that had been supported by Republicans such as Mitt Romney in the recent past, pointedly rejecting the single-payer option favored by liberals;
  • He caved to conservative demands that the Bush tax cuts be extended without getting any quid pro quo whatsoever;
  • And in the past few weeks he has supported deficit reductions that go far beyond those offered by Republicans.
And so on. Not sure I buy the whole argument but perhaps my political paradigm requires some shifting. If anything this shows that we live in a political universe that's profoundly relativistic.

There's no absolute space, no absolute rest. Everything is moving relative to everything else and what it means to be "liberal" or "conservative" has to be viewed through the relative frame of reference of the person using each term.


Heir to the Throne said...

His stimulus bill was half the size that his advisers thought necessary;
Are these the same advisers who claimed unemployment would not go over 9% even without the stimulus bill?

EdHeath said...

HTTT, it is certainly true that Obama and/or his advisers claimed unemployment would not go over 9%. I assume you will admit that Paul Krugman said the stimulus was too small at the time it was passed. Honestly I don't know what his advisers said at the time in public or private, but it is hardly surprising that they would put the most optimistic face on a policy since a good portion of what happens in the economy is what people expect to happen. If the President is optimistic, people may spend money more freely, and the economy may pick up.

Meanwhile, your Heritage Foundation link describes the stimulus as failed, which is just so much Republican propaganda. The stimulus was too small (and configured in such a way as to appeal to Republicans who chose not to vote for it anyway) and did not generate a robust recovery. Yet it still saved up to 3 and a half million jobs, according to the Council of Economic Advisers.

Heir to the Throne said...

I grabbed the first link that had the chart with the Obama Administration unemployment estimates. (the Heritage Foundation link)

Not to argue if stimulus failed or not.

Paul Krugman said the stimulus was too small at the time it was passed.
Krugman – wow, just "wow".
All indications are that the new administration will offer a major stimulus package. My own back-of-the-envelope calculations say that the package should be huge, on the order of $600 billion.

Yes I am aware of his dishonest dodge claiming the stimulus package was for 2 years of spending (not 1) and the "slump was going to be deeper than I expected".

EdHeath said...

HTTT, you know you are not actually addressing Bartlett's claim that Obama is a moderate conservative. But whatever, you just want piss on Obama (and apparently Krugman) any chance you get, whether it is related to any conversation or not.

Bruce McQuain is clearly no economist, let alone a nobel prize winning one; he obviously does not understand the relatively simple concept of a public good. Although conservative types like to blather about "shovel ready" projects in the stimulus package, I don't believe shovel ready projects were much more than a third of the actual stimulus, So the temporary job creation portion of the stimulus was fairly limited, but still it is supposed to have saved 3 and a half million jobs.

Meanwhile you call Krugman's "$600 Billion" post dishonest, based on what? That you think Krugman said something that he didn't say? You apparently expect me to blindly agree with whatever link you shove at us, and that I should disagree with everything Krugman says because ... you don't like him. I will say again, McQuain does not come close to making a coherent economic argument that Krugman is wrong. I also see no reason, based on your statement, not to believe Krugman when he says that a)he was proposing $600 billion one year stimulus and b) that the slump turned uglier than he thought it would be by Obama's inauguration.

Heir to the Throne said...

Paul Krugman and Bruce Bartlett are hacks whose judgement is suspect in determining if Obama's policies are "conservative".

Krugman: ‘I Didn’t Mean That Stimulus!’

Paul Krugman now says that some kinds of Keynesian stimulus spending just aren’t as effective as other kinds. Specifically, he suggests, aid to state and local governments (to enable them to keep government workers in their jobs) is a sort of second-class stimulus:

So what happened to the stimulus? Much of it consisted of tax cuts, not spending. Most of the rest consisted either of aid to distressed families or aid to hard-pressed state and local governments. This aid may have mitigated the slump, but it wasn’t the kind of job-creation program we could and should have had.

Hmm. That’s not what I remember him saying back in 2009. In 2009, if I remember right, job-preserving aid to state and local governments was almost the most important thing in the world. Let’s see … searching … searching … Sorry I’m a little rusty … searching … whoops, hit the Times paywall … searching … ah, yes:

Now the centrists have shaved off $86 billion in spending — much of it among the most effective and most needed parts of the plan. In particular, aid to state governments, which are in desperate straits, is both fast — because it prevents spending cuts rather than having to start up new projects — and effective, because it would in fact be spent; plus state and local governments are cutting back on essentials, so the social value of this spending would be high.

Paul Krugman admits madness in four words.
Violates the New Tone/Civility.
I’m honestly sorry to say this, but when you start your article with “Amanda Marcotte is right,” you’ve pretty much just taken your credibility, shot it in the back of the head, and are now frantically digging a hole to bury the corpse in before somebody comes to investigate the loud noise.

addressing Bartlett's claim
From Bruce Bartlett on Wiki
Known for Opposition to George W. Bush's economic policies
In Bartlett's latest book, The New American Economy: The Failure of Reaganomics and a New Way Forward, he embraces Keynesian ideas, stating that while supply-side economics was appropriate for the 1970s and 1980s, supply side arguments do not fit contemporary conditions.

EdHeath said...

HTTT, you know the difference between a discussion on the value of different policies and a simple shouting match designed to score political points? When you describe a Nobel prize winning economist and an economic adviser to Saint Reagan as "hacks".

Look, I am satisfied with the notion of a relative complicated hierarchy for different components in the stimulus plan. I'm sorry if you can't wrap your head around that, or think it is some kind of cop-out, but in the real world (which no longer exists because of partisan politics) where people want to design effective policy, they actually evaluate policy in a serious manner.

So Krugman both praises the speed with which aid to states can be deployed and laments the fact that its effects will be fairly temporary, when compared to infrastructure projects like roads or bridges or re-wiring neighborhoods to deploy city-wide wireless internet access. That strikes me as an intelligent assessment, and useful information when proposing the stimulus.

And if Moe Lane doesn't like Amanda Marcotte, that's fine for Moe Lane. It doesn't carry any weight with me.

And I don't know Mickey Kaus's economic credentials, but he fails to actually make an economic argument. I mean, it is reasonable for Kaus to question Krugman if Krugman does a 180 oh deeply held principles (like if Krugamn switches from advocating fiscal solutions to suddenly advocating monetary policy solutions with no satisfactory explanation). But as far as I can tell, Kaus's understanding of economics is simplistic and he sees the world in terms of black and white.That kind of thinking actually makes it harder to get good policy made and modified when problems are found.

Finally, I suspect that I disagree with Bruce Bartlett on some fundamental economic theory, but I think he is giving us a cold, sober evaluation of current economic conditions. But I guess if Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and Glenn Beck don't give him their blessing, then you feel you have to throw Bartlett under the bus.

Its disappointing that we can not have a simple adult conversation about Obama's behavior without you (excuse my language, David and Maria) fucking cackling and giving us stupid non-sequiturs.