Patterico's Pontifications

3/12/2009

It’s the Economy, Obama

Filed under: General — Karl @ 12:34 pm

The Hill adds to the coverage coming from CNN and Newsweek on the growing concern that Pres. Obama is trying to do “too much, too soon,” instead of focusing on the economy:

President Obama’s honeymoon is beginning to fade.

Members of Congress and old political hands say he needs to show substantial progress reviving the economy soon.

Some Democrats have started to worry that voters don’t and won’t understand the link between economic revival and Obama’s huge agenda, which includes saving the banking industry, ending home foreclosures, reforming healthcare and developing a national energy policy, among much else. 

While lawmakers debate controversial proposals contained in the new president’s debut budget — cutting farm subsidies, raising taxes on charitable contributions, etc. — there is a growing sense that time is running out faster than expected.

RCP’s Jay Cost noted that Congress was beginning to assert itself on budgetary issues, even before this unease began to take hold. Indeed, Congressional Democrats were hedging on healthcare almost a year ago, well before the current meltdown in the financial markets.

All presidents like to think they have a mandate; presidents elected in “change” elections probably more than most.  Our political structures — the winner-take-all system, the Electoral College, etc. — tend to create the image of a mandate in many elections.  However, a look at the ratio of winners’ votes to runners’-up votes in the last 25 Presidential elections is instructive.  The post-WWII “change” elections are all in the top ten closest elections.  By this measure, the magnitude of Obama’s victory is almost exactly that of Clinton in 1992.  Moreover, it shows that the US has been trending toward closer elections for some time.  All of the post-Reagan elections are in the top half of the chart; all of the post-Clinton elections are in the top ten.  Consequently, trying to manage political relations with the hundreds of ambitious, yet provincial politicians in Congress (all attuned to their constituencies and political fortunes) becomes even more difficult. 

“Change” presidents can find themselves hobbled by a Democratic Congress, regardless of whether they fight Congress (as Carter did) or become hostage to it (as Clinton did).  The Obama Administration is shaping up as the mirror image of the Clinton Administration in 1993.  Bill Clinton wanted to focus like a laser on economic issues, while Congress wanted to pursue a broader Leftist agenda; now, those roles are reversed.  DC Democrats, who lost big in 1994, seem to have learned the lesson of the Clinton campaign.  Pres. Obama would do well to listen to Congress this time.

40 Responses to “It’s the Economy, Obama”

  1. Ear Leader has already demonstrated that he doesn’t understand the economy, and apparently, neither do those idiots he’s appointed. between them and Congress, we’re screwed.

    redc1c4 (9c4f4a)

  2. From John McCain:

    My Friend,

    Last week, I emailed you about my opposition to the massive $410 billion omnibus spending bill before the U.S. Senate. On Tuesday night, the bill was passed by the Senate and was quickly signed into law by President Obama behind closed doors.

    “The President’s rhetoric is impressive, but his statement affirms we will continue to do business as usual in Washington regarding earmarks in appropriations legislation.”

    As a vocal opponent of this bill – one that is filled with over 9,000 earmarks wasting $7.7 billion of your tax dollars – I urged President Obama to use his veto power to reject the bill so we could start over without the pork.

    I believed there was no better time for President Obama, a man who pledged to, “go line by line to make sure that we are not spending money unwisely,” to veto this spending bill that is simply wasting your money.

    Unfortunately, President Obama chose to pass up this opportunity to reject wasteful spending – giving you and I as taxpayers excuses as to why he will not publicly reject the pork in this bill.

    I certainly hope President Obama will do as he said and stop this type of wasteful spending. If he won’t, then it’s up to us to hold him to his word.

    I’m asking you to join me in sending a message to President Obama – keep your campaign promise to the American people to meaningfully end pork-barrel spending!

    I’ve spent my career in the U.S. Congress fighting against this type of egregious spending. With your support, we’ll keep the pressure on Congress to put an end to unauthorized earmarks once and for all.

    I’m asking you to join me in sending a message to President Obama – keep your campaign promise to the American people to meaningfully end pork-barrel spending!
    —–

    Vermont Neighbor (229b93)

  3. Its pretty clear that Congress is running the show more than Obama is. This will be known as the empty suit administration.

    And given his difficulty in finding Cabinet nominees, its no surprise.

    SPQR (72771e)

  4. What BHO and his appointees understand about the economy is to not pay taxes.

    AD - RtR/OS (6b685f)

  5. It depends on what the meaning of ‘try to do’ is… If one means actually accomplish something that helps the economy, I’d agree with his critics. BUT… if one means keeping himself in the public eye and in a way that makes it look as if he’d on top of things, then I’d argue that he in fact is not doing too much.

    The worst thing for a President’s political prospects is to have the public blame him for something bad either because they think he isn’t on top of things (Bush and Katrina) or because they think his policies are responsible. So… Obama, being the astute politician that he is, is making sure the public sees him in action (like Clinton, Obama has a new issue every day or so to garner the air time and keep the conversation away from the bad economy) and he makes sure he (and his MSM collaborators) keep pushing a dual theme of (1) blame Bush and (2) Obama’s policies will work, but Bush (see #1) left such a mess that it will take a long time to fix the problems. He wants to make sure the public thinks we’re having problems despite Obama’s heroic efforts.

    And, please don’t respond by citing statistics, economic theory or anything substantive that purport to show that Obama is wrong… we all know that perception matters more than reality, that most voters don’t care or want to understand the fundamentals of what is going on, and the Democrats want power enough that they’re willing to resort to just about anything (including manipulating the statistics) in order to keep getting themselves elected.

    steve sturm (369bc6)

  6. Karl, you noted, in part: “Pres. Obama would do well to listen…”

    I’ve seen zero evidence he has the ability to listen, despite those huge ears. If it ain’t him-a-talkin’ he don’t care!

    GM Roper (85dcd7)

  7. Obama doesn’t care about Congress. If he can ram through his spending agenda quickly enough, he will have created an electorate, the majority of whom do not pay taxes and t/4 have no interest in issues of governance except “keep the checks coming.”

    Patricia (2183bb)

  8. It always comes down to the sin of arrogance with this guy – he never admits he needs advice or counsel from anyone, other than from his hand – picked stoolies. Everyone who doesn’t agree with his opinions on every subject is not to be trusted – only bootlickers allowed.

    But if we’re actually discussing whether he should take more advice from Congress?!! Yes, by all means, he should listen more to Frank, Dodd, Skelator and Military Jets 24/7 Pelosi – they’ve done so well by him so far (sarc).

    Dmac (49b16c)

  9. BTW, forgot to add that the one person he should’ve been listening to from Day One of his first term in office is still gathering mothballs in his new digs, less than a mile away from the WH. His name is Volcker, and he despises what these people in charge are doing to his economy. He was brought in to cure the horrendous stagflation that was brought on during the Carter years, and he’s seeing this nightmare being replayed. History repeats itself – first time as tragedy, second time as farce. Wonder how many people think this is hilarious this time?

    Dmac (49b16c)

  10. less than a mile away from the WH

    Dmac – Are you sure it’s less than a mile?

    daleyrocks (5d22c0)

  11. Patricia – The iron fist of government will take care of all your needs. What do you need this free markets magic stuff for anyway? If the government provides your housing, your healthcare, your food, hell, why do you even need a job. Everybody should have voted for Obama and stopped working!

    daleyrocks (5d22c0)

  12. daleyrocks @ 2:59 p.m., letter to the LAT this week. She’s got your number. God help us. :)

    Why does Goldberg think a “European welfare state” is such a bad thing? I have relatives living in Holland. Everyone has health insurance regardless of employment. My cousin’s mentally ill son receives free therapy, counseling, job training and medical care. My retired uncle lives in beautiful subsidized senior housing. His wife, who was left with brain damage following surgery more than 30 years ago, was in a state-supported institution until her death several years ago.

    Yes, taxes are high in Europe. But my relatives tell me they are willing to pay high taxes in exchange for guaranteed healthcare, lifelong security and freedom from fear. I only wish the U.S. could be a “European welfare state.”

    Dana (137151)

  13. Funny, I was just wondering about that incredibly salient fact, Daley. Gee, if it turns out to be more than a mile away, I guess my entire thesis is moot, correct?

    Dmac (49b16c)

  14. Dana, my conclusion from the letter is that Europe is a great place for senile, crazy and brain damaged people.

    SPQR (72771e)

  15. In this post we are told that Obama should “‘listened to congress,” but can you call the “some Democrats anonymously cited here “congress?”

    What a spin. Some could be 2 or 50.

    Andrew (df52d5)

  16. and freedom from fear.

    Yeah, freedom from fear – except for that whole Islamic – raging – mobs – on – the – street – thing – because – of – a – printed – cartoon, and that little disembowlment of a prominent film director in broad daylight, on a public street. Not to mention that little fatwa on an outspoken member of the government, who had to leave the country because they couldn’t guarantee her safety anymore – yeah, freedom from fear, no question.

    Dmac (49b16c)

  17. anonymously cited here “congress?”

    I quite agree – what, after all is this thing called Congress? Could be a gathering of Boy Scouts…or Jews for Jesus…who are we to say what is Congress?

    Dmac (49b16c)

  18. Patricia – The iron fist of government will take care of all your needs. What do you need this free markets magic stuff for anyway? If the government provides your housing, your healthcare, your food, hell, why do you even need a job. Everybody should have voted for Obama and stopped working!

    Comment by daleyrocks — 3/12/2009 @ 2:59 pm

    (Ridiculous exaggeration designed to persuade anyone on the fence about whether or not helping those around you benefits all)

    Oiram (983921)

  19. Ridiculous exaggeration

    Oh really? See #12.

    Dana (137151)

  20. who are we to say what is Congress

    I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is a disgrace; two, a law firm; and three or more, a Congress

    Steverino (69d941)

  21. #12, 19 – unbelievable that people think that they can let the “government” supply all their needs w/o a strong economy and culture behind it. Europe is getting grayer and grayer, and at some point the young people will revolt at the old people sucking in all their money.

    steve miller (0fb51f)

  22. Steverino @ 20:

    Sounds like something Mark Twain would have said.

    Bradley J. Fikes, C. O.R. (a18ddc)

  23. Comment by Oiram — 3/12/2009 @ 3:37 pm

    (Ridiculous exaggeration designed to persuade anyone on the fence about whether or not helping those around you benefits all)

    (Ridiculous refutation designed to manipulate anyone on the fence with feelings of guilt for being “selfish”)

    Another Chris (a3bb8f)

  24. Strike as non – responsive, your honor.

    Dmac (49b16c)

  25. I was responding to you- know – who’s post, AC.

    Dmac (49b16c)

  26. (Ridiculous exaggeration designed to persuade anyone on the fence about whether or not helping those around you benefits all)

    Oiram – You have it all wrong. It’s an illustration of the incentives the programs Obama is expanding or establishing creates for individuals. Why is it so hard for you to see things like that?

    daleyrocks (5d22c0)

  27. “… Europe is a great place for senile, crazy and brain damaged people.
    Comment by SPQR — 3/12/2009 @ 3:14 pm

    In other words, for Democrats!

    AD - RtR/OS (6b685f)

  28. Nobody ever accused dubya of being too busy. And that turned out well.

    imdw (a8737f)

  29. Nobody ever accused dubya of being too busy.

    Bush wore a coat & tie, fwiw. I appreciated his respect for the daily rigors.

    It’s okay for these guys to vacation, they’re on call 24/7 anyway. Obama has taken his breathers pretty frequently though. It looks like Bush, love him or hate him, made the job look easy… if Barry’s performance is any indication.

    Vermont Neighbor (229b93)

  30. Fascinating that you did not write “It’s the economy, stupid” the quote that you are clearly copying/imitating.

    Either you are afraid to call Obama “stupid” for fear of the groupies or that Obama=Stupid and you think it’s redundant.

    Which?

    Cara (53e4d3)

  31. He can’t even populate the Treasury Department! What a fricken joke going on over at Treasury. They just this week lost three potential appointees. Has to be a record. Yeah, the best transistion team evah! Ha! What a joke.

    J. Raymond Wright (e8d0ca)

  32. you think it’s redundant.

    Ya think?

    EW1(SG) (e27928)

  33. CNN has an article about how Barcky is considering charging soldiers’ private insurance for treatment of war wounds.

    JD (abe6ab)

  34. ” Why does Goldberg think a “European welfare state” is such a bad thing? I have relatives living in Holland. Everyone has health insurance regardless of employment. My cousin’s mentally ill son receives free therapy, counseling, job training and medical care. My retired uncle lives in beautiful subsidized senior housing. His wife, who was left with brain damage following surgery more than 30 years ago, was in a state-supported institution until her death several years ago.

    Yes, taxes are high in Europe. But my relatives tell me they are willing to pay high taxes in exchange for guaranteed healthcare, lifelong security and freedom from fear. I only wish the U.S. could be a “European welfare state.”

    Comment by Dana — 3/12/2009 @ 3:08 pm”

    Apples and oranges. Holland is a small country inside the worlds largest single trading block. Holland is able to run fairly large trade surpluses relative to the size of its economy which generates a fair amount of taxes relative to its tax base. The volume of exports the US would need to generate to be proportional to Holland is beyond the entire worlds ability to absorb. This is the reason small, homogeneous nations with advance economies are able to afford the benefits you describe. Based on the internal economic activity of those countries, that is without the large export component bringing taxable income in from abroad, those countries could not afford their benefits either.

    Of course overlooked is the fact that even with the export generated taxation, these countries have on the whole a lower standard of living than the US. While I empathize with respects to your relatives plight, why is that a problem for those who do not have a similar situation? To what extent should they be impoverished to subsidize others who are not their family?

    cubanbob (409ac2)

  35. Cara (#30),

    You present a false choice. When the Clinton campaign came up with “It’s the economy, stupid” in 1992, I doubt they actually thought they were stupid. Rather, it was a funny way to remind themselves to stay on the issue everyone cared about.

    Karl (8966b4)

  36. Sounds like something Mark Twain would have said.

    Close…it’s a line uttered by John Adams in the musical “1776”. I don’t know whether Adams ever said such a thing, or this is just a clever line from the author.

    Steverino (69d941)

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