Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Oy, Kraushaar

Granted, I haven't watched the president's speech today. But that's OK; apparently, Josh Kraushaar hasn't watched anything else the president did from about March 2009 until today.

Seriously: I think this could be the single stupidest thing I've heard anyone try to peddle yet about Barack Obama's economic record:
Instead of taking up health care reform in the wake of the Great Recession, the president could have spent his time addressing Americans’ economic insecurity by promoting programs for those finding themselves out of work, struggling to find new jobs, and looking to get back on their feet...

Imagine if Obama began his presidency pitching an economic opportunity platform focused on, say, expanding job retraining programs, extending the payroll tax cut, and streamlining the tax code.
My emphasis, because...Oh my God. That's right: Josh Kraushaar is complaining that Barack Obama ignored the economy from March 2009 until, apparently today -- and all would have been well if only he had supported extending the payroll tax cut. Extending the payroll tax cut. Extending the payroll tax cut!!!

(No, he's not talking about the beginning of the second term; later in that paragraph, he talks about how he had the votes in Congress back then to do whatever he wanted. Which also wasn't true, by the way, even in 2009-2010).

For the record: the payroll tax cut was passed in 2010 and extended in 2012 through the end of that year. It expired at the end of 2012 -- basically, at the end of Obama's first term. That is, the payroll tax cut was passed and once extended during the period in which Obama was supposedly ignoring the economy; it was only available to extend  at the end of 2012 because it was passed when he supposedly was ignoring the economy.

There's no hint in Kraushaar's column about the Jobs Act that Obama proposed in September 2011. Nothing about the economic plan he pushed in fall 2010, either. Nothing about Dodd-Frank. Nothing even about the proposals Obama made in his State of the Union this year, most of which he's still repeating (and House Republicans are still ignoring). For that matter, nothing about Obama's deficit-cutting over the last couple of years. Some of that may have been bad policy; much of it never happened because he didn't have the votes in Congress. But all of it was done in an attempt to get the economy moving.

Not to mention that there's a very screwy giving-speeches-and-passing-things focus here. What Obama did for the economy in 2009-2010 was mainly implementing the stimulus passed in early 2009. That's really not ignoring the economy.

By all means, criticize the specific choices Obama and Hill Democrats made. Was the stimulus too small? Too big? Badly constructed, or badly implemented? Was Dodd-Frank the wrong path? Should there have been a different course on housing? Was Bernanke at the Fed a mistake? Did Obama err in pivoting, to the extent he did, to austerity? All of those are fair game. The idea that the administration ignored the economy in after spring 2009, however, just won't fly.

Oh, and you know what? Ask a hundred economists, and I bet 99 of them say that "streamlining the tax code" is very small potatoes indeed for the economy compared with fixing health care.

I like some of Kraushaar's stuff, but this has to be the single worst column (not counting partisan talking points) I've read in a long time.

27 comments:

  1. Imagine if Obama began his presidency pitching an economic opportunity platform focused on, say, expanding job retraining programs, slashing taxes, and boosting infrastructure and R&D spending.

    Wait what?

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  2. Even stepping back from all of those errors, the idea that there's this thing called "the economy" over here and a thing called "health care" over there and never the twain shall meet is so asinine and entirely too common.

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  3. The problem with health care was always the costs, and Obama completely ignored that. Buffett even told him to go back to the drawing board and address costs. But he refused, and now we have ObamaCare. Check for yourself what the public thinks of it.

    We also have a very sick economy. Unemployment and underemployment are at near depression levels. ObamaCare is now being identified as destroying job creation. Like it or not, this is inevitable, given the given here.

    Yes, the 2 are related, and not in the way that the Left thinks.

    So now you understand why the Obamabots are finally "pivoting to the economy". They understand what they have wrought, and that it's running their approval ratings into the toilet, and is at risk to ruin their day come the first Tuesday in November 2014. Unfortunately, it's likely too late to do anything about that Tuesday reckoning. It will be whatever it is, and the economic forecasts do not appear good.

    And so, the Left leaves its political opposition able to define them, in year 6 of a presidency, as big spending and big borrowing statists, destroyers of job creation, bankrupting the present and future, with ObamaCare as exhibit A. That's what's got the Obamabots in a panic today. It's sad, that they're playing politics and speechifying over this, at this late date.

    I'm guessing that the Left is going to have to compromise this Fall, bigtime. There is no way that the incumbent lefties are going to risk going down with the ship, and giving up those cushy seats. We'll have significant tax and spending reform, shortly, I should think.

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    1. You couldn't be more wrong if your were wilfully ignorant....Oh wait.

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    2. As if throwing in Obamabots, statists, lefties didn't already just destroy your credibility; you are left with your preternaturally reality denying post.

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    3. I think this post was recycled from 2011 or 2012 and predicted a huge loss in the 2012 elections. With a few switches, it's ready for 2014.

      One problem with this kind of rhetoric is that the extravagant claims of how bad things will be don't come true. Will Obamacare ruin the whole country or the whole healthcare system? If that's what the GOP predicts, there's a high bar and not likely to happen.

      Likewise with the economy--it's hard to convince people that it's Obama's fault if someone was paying attention during Fall '08 and saw unemployment surging and bankers grim-faced and trembling.

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    4. I could not have invented a finer example of epistemic closure than this steaming anonymous pile of horse manure smuggled into this blog by one of the perpetually mystified zombies of the red-state low-information backwaters.

      Out of curiosity, do you get some sort of loyalty award for the number of debunked right wing talking points you toss out, and-- if so-- what are they good for? Discounts on the entire Conservative Bobble-head Collection(TM)?

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    5. You did invent epistemic closure, lefty. That's why you're attacking and throwing invective, as all leftists seem to prefer.

      But if you think you have a point other than invective and attack, address that post.

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    6. Oh, and as I say, get ready for some significant tax and spending reform. Those incumbent lefties ain't as epistemically closed as you are, and they definitely want to keep their butts in those comfortable seats.

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  4. "Obamacare is now being identified as destroying job creation".

    By whom? You? The people who have been pissing on it since day 1? And can you destroy something not yet created?

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  5. I thought I was reading someone's hallucination instead of a thoughtful criticism of President Obama's economic approach for the country. Frankly, I was lost when I sought Mr. Kraushaar's National Journal piece out from a Twitter post. I am happy to say that your blog articulated my exact concerns about the Kraushaar article; that it belittled the economic impact of health care in this country. Had Mr. Kraushaar complained that we ended up with a conservative program rather than my own choice of single payer system that to me makes even more economic sense than Obamacare (which I confess I like) I would have sent him high praise. Yet, even with that criticism of Obamacare and the political capital it took along with it should have been stated that Obamacare was over forty years in arrival. No one had passed a credible program even though health care was a cancer on our economy. Alas, Mr. Kraushaar underestimates both the positive effect of an undersized stimulus and a moderate healthcare plan on the economy. These are no small accomplishments. However the President is continuing to push for more on the economic front to be done including saving our environment.

    The President is imperfect. He has a much softer approach domestically than I would like but he says and I have learned to believe him that he is persistent. As a supporter of Mr. Obama, I would like to see bankers go to jail and then I would be quite content.

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    1. I am actually a great believer in counter factual analysis. It helps us see historical events from the perspective of people who actually lived them, as well as avoiding the great trap of seeing fate and inevitability in every twist of history. But this particular counter factual is shot through with problems. In a lot of ways America has had uniquely bad luck in the area of universal health care. Now, all countries have their unique issues, issues that are often puzzling to other nations for whom these problems simply do not arise. Thus the French don't understand why Americans have such a problem with health care, and Americans don't see why the French have such trouble with head scarves.

      All of which is to say that by 2009 health care reform arrived on the agenda with nearly a century of history behind it. The Democrats, in particular, were burdened by a generation of failure. One can easily make the case that national health care should have been instituted in 1977, or at the latest in 1993, and had foundered both times because of Democratic disunity. Democrats and activists understood this very well. By 2009, indeed in the campaign of 2008, great energy was expended on making sure that did not happen again, and if any Democrats forgot their were plenty of people ready to remind them that, had they not been such a pack of unlucky and incompetent dolts, America would have already enjoyed universal health care for a generation. In that environment to think it was politically possible to say, "well, can't do that, let's put it off another fifteen years and work on other things," seems breathtakingly naive.

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    2. I should have made clear that I am talking about Kraushaar's analysis.

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  6. There's a big twitter fight going on about this right now.

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    1. Kraushaar looks even dumber on Twitter. A cultivated credulousness towards the Tea Party's stated agenda in order to pin it on Obama. A tool.

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  7. But...
    I have the impression, perhaps wrong, that if you ask americans about what the number one problem in the country is, the answer is JOBS

    I have the impression, perhaps wrong, that Obama has had at least two "pivots" towards jobs...

    The fact is, Obama spent a lot of time helping poor, helpless victims like J Dimone, and not working on job..I think if you look at the totality of his presidency, and the total % of hours spent on jobs, compared to how important job are..
    obama has been AWOL

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    1. We can hear Limbaugh's show on the radio. We don't need you to type it into a comment box for us.

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  8. Ignored? No. But had his priorities wrong? Yes. Instead of focusing on healthcare he should have focused more on our unemployment problem.

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    1. Okay, I will bite. Let us assume it was politically possible to de-emphasize HCR. I don't think it was, but for the sake of argument, we will go with it. What should Obama have done that he did not do? And how would de-emphasizing or delaying HCR have made any difference?

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    2. Done more to focus on economic growth, like I said earlier. More infrastructure spending. He should have eliminated the payroll tax, not just cut it. And he should have implemented corporate tax reform. And perhaps followed the Bowles-Simpson model.

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    3. Okay. So by eliminating the payroll tax he would have moved from a storm over HCR to a storm over social security, roused the GOP into even higher levels of rebellion (and likely into even higher gains in 2010), while not getting it passed (huge bipartisan majorities would have blocked it), and still not accomplished the Democratic Party's main domestic priority (the great initial sin of Jimmy Carter, whom he would have rapidly come to resemble). Corporate tax reform in the absence of significant personal tax increases on high earners, and especially in the absence of HCR, likewise could have triggered a revolt. Simpson-Bowles had no support capable of passing it through Congress in 2009, especially in the face of universal condemnation from partisan economists of both left (far too little stimulus) and right (far too much spending). The upshot of any of this would have been political hysterics far beyond anything we actually saw, as the Democrats would have joined in, while Obama would have watched the resultant economic reaction plunge the country into a much deeper recession, resulting in even larger losses in 2010 and a unified GOP government in 2012. Meanwhile centrism would have been permanently discredited in the Democratic Party, resulting in even more poarization.

      Oh, and we still would not have HCR.

      Like I say, counter factuals can be interesting.

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    4. You're entitled to your own opinion. But we'll never know. In my opinion each one would have been tough but I would have preferred he try at least one of them.

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    5. I tend to agree that infrastructure spending needed to be greater and better managed, although the evidence seems to be that infrastructure projects don't have as much impact on short term unemployment as one would like. Corporate tax reform may have been possible had there been a better relationship with the GOP (the right wing of the Democrats would have been very skittish without bipartisan cover) and had the Democrats further to the left been satisfied that their domestic priorities were being attended to.

      But neither of those conditions was present. The GOP would surely not have joined any discussion over corporate taxes, and putting off domestic priorities to achieve it was a nonstarter. If a president wants to be successful he quite simply cannot engage in open warfare with his own congressional party, and he has to be very careful how he fights party power centers and interest groups. We have an example of that, in one James Earl Carter. Given the forces gathered behind health care reform, including the fact that it had been a center piece of both the Democratic primary campaign and the general election, it simply was not possible to put it on the back burner even if Obama thought that was a good idea (which all evidence is he did not), certainly not while the Democrats controlled the House and Nancy Pelosi held the gavel, and certainly not while Ted Kennedy was still alive and the Clintons were heavily supporting HCR.

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  9. Republicans in 1936 got hysterical about Social Security, passed and about to be implemented. Some of the hysteria was hyped up facts: the government is going to give you a number! Your taxes will be raised to pay for this--for the rest of your life! And of course they couldn't stop there. You'll be required to wear your social security number on a dogtag around your neck! And of course--the economy will be destroyed! Freedom is a thing of the past! Roosevelt is a Communist! And that's just the establishment Republicans. Their fringe had their own birthers: Roosevelt is secretly Jewish!

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  10. Actually I have two other comments. First, I do wish Obama and company had stressed more the economic necessity of ACA, and the ways it would benefit the economy in general as well as families.

    Second, while Kraushaar is an extreme example and I'm happy to see him called on it, he is hardly alone. I can't count the number of times I've heard some learned pundit pick out something in an Obama speech or statement as something new, something he should have said long ago, when in fact he'd said it several times before. You like have to listen, or at least read.

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    1. Yeah, I really agree with that last point. Not just pundits, either; partisans and activists, too (most definitely including liberal activists who want to know why Obama never says X, when in fact he says it all the time).

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  11. It's embarrassing coming from a friend in a political discussion, but it's inexcusable when a pundit or political writer does it.

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