Tuesday, February 19, 2008
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Musings about the Obama backlash
It's just so three hours ago to talk about how an Obama cult member gets through the day or how Barack Obama can help sustain marriages that cross party lines or how Obama is feeling the love in Japan and Europe. Right now it's all about the backlash!!
Kevin Drum is all over this meme. Deep within the Obama cult, The New Republic's Christopher Orr implies that Republicans like David Brooks were just waiting for Obama to surge... so they could then pull the super-secret double-cross and drag him down into the mire.
As a potential Obama-can, I'm still on the fence. This is not because of Brooks' column today though he is clearly one spur for this conversation. Rather, Clive Crook got at it a bit better in his Financial Times column:
Mr Obama is a paradox, as yet unresolved. His plan and his votes in the Senate show that he is a liberal, not a centrist. And he is no wavering or accidental liberal. His ideas are of a piece. He sees – or convinces people that he sees – a bigger picture. And yet this leftist visionary is pragmatic, non-ideological and accommodating of dissent. More than that, in fact, he seems keen to listen to and learn from those who disagree with him. What a strange and beguiling combination this is.Now, on the one hand, Steve Chapman soothes my anxieties here when he compares Clinton's mortgage plan with Obama's:
Obama is not a staunch free marketeer, but he grasps the value of markets and shows some deference to economic laws. Clinton, however, tends to treat both as piddly obstacles to her grand ambitions.On the other hand, we get to what Obama is saying right now, and I start to get very worried. The Financial Times' Edward Luce explains:
Barack Obama on Monday made an aggressive pitch at Ohio’s blue-collar workers by proposing a “Patriot Employers” plan that would lower corporate taxes for companies that did not ship jobs overseas.Clive Crook, correctly, concludes that this plan is, "on its economic merits, remarkably stupid." And I haven't even gotten to Obama's NAFTA-bashing.
So what's a possible Obama cultist to think? I can offer four words of solace in considering whether to embrace a President Obama:
1) Part of this is the remaining primary schedule. Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are all fertile ground for economic populism, and this is presumably why Obama has been tacking in this direction. As John Broder and Jeff Zeleny point out in today's New York Times:[B]oth candidates appear to be looking for ways to avoid taking positions that would give them problems in the general election or expose them to a business backlash....2) Chapman is still right -- compared to Hillary, Obama remains the more market-friendly candidate. Indeed, this might even remain true if Obama is compared to McCain. The latter's first instinct on other issues (campaign finance) has been to regulate.
posted by Dan on 02.19.08 at 02:18 PM
The Patriot Employer Act is actually proposed legislation. It basically puts the IRS in the labor rights business and forces them to get foreign employee headcounts for our multinationals. This would be hard to administer, and would put the administration to an agency that is traditionally undefunded.
My inner tax policy wonk is offended.posted by: Appalled Moderate on 02.19.08 at 02:18 PM [permalink]
Much has been made of McCain's instinct to regulate markets. I understand that economics are not his first priority, as he himself admits, but his track record in the Senate doesn't reflect an itch to regulate (with the big exception of McCain-Feingold). There's a nice article in Fortune about how Gramm is trying to educate and advise McCain on economics policy.posted by: wph on 02.19.08 at 02:18 PM [permalink]
"There's a nice article in Fortune about how Gramm is trying to educate and advise McCain on economics policy."
Now *there's* a reason to vote for Obama if I've ever heard one...posted by: Prison Rodeo on 02.19.08 at 02:18 PM [permalink]
I don't think recycling the favorite talking point of the pro-corruption elements in the Republican Party is particularly helpful in illuminating Sen. McCain's thinking about markets.
You won't find anything in the writings of Smith, Ricardo or von Hayek identifying belief in the virtues of market economics with the conviction that obstacles to the buying and selling of politicians are wicked.posted by: Zathras on 02.19.08 at 02:18 PM [permalink]
Since Zathras brings up Adam Smith, let us see Mr. Smith channel Sen. McCain:
"But the cruellest of our revenue laws, I will venture to affirm, are mild and gentle in comparison of some of those which the clamour of our merchants and manufacturers has extorted from the legislature for the support of their own absurd and oppressive monopolies. Like the laws of Draco, these laws may be said to be all written in blood."posted by: Appalled Moderate on 02.19.08 at 02:18 PM [permalink]
Obama is better on economics, but Clinton still holds sway in politics. This is why she is so hated among the right; she will do anything to accomplish what she wants done. She probably would have won in any other year against any other opponent.
Democrats are being "Roved"; Obama is an easy target ... they'll portray him as Jimmy Carter which is exactly apt. They've been enabling his ascendance every step of the way.
TOHposted by: The Objective Historian on 02.19.08 at 02:18 PM [permalink]
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