Sometimes it’s Dana
Milkbag Milbank, sometimes it’s Ezra Klein.
We’re speaking, of course, of the random acts of accurate observation sometimes occurring in reliably liberal writers. In this case, Klein has seen the train wreck—and the bogusness of—Barack Obamacare:
During his 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama relied on a standard applause line, a promise that his health-care plan would “lower premiums by up to $2,500 for a typical family per year.” Cue cheers — or jeers if you were a health-policy expert. For them, his vow was ridiculous. There was no time frame attached to the promise. There was no plan for realizing it. It was change no one quite believed in.
Shockingly, Klein says candidate Obama’s promises on healthcare were
lies optimistic oversimplifications.
Although we applaud Klein for finding an acorn, we can’t help but wonder how he would characterize the issue had it been James Clapper who had offered the misrepresentation instead of the President.
And sadly, almost as soon as Klein has found an acorn of truth, it slips from his grasp into the fermented funk of predictable liberalism: that is, Klein—and America—needs Congress to do something for some reason to someone regarding something else stat:
[There should now be] an explosion of efforts in Congress to capitalize on this moment. We should be pushing further and faster to reform the health-care system, even as we argue about the expansion of health insurance under Obamacare. Instead, Congress is wasting the moment, doing an even worse job addressing the subject of health costs than Obama did in 2008.
Klein’s pleading is forced to ignore the fact it was the then-Democrat Congress—who had to pass it before they could read it—along with the President, who gave us the failed government leviathan called Barack Obamacare.
Ezra, next time try quitting when you’re ahead. Half a column—even a paragraph—that’s reasonable, accurate, and understandable is far better than a longer one that isn’t.
Right from the get-go, Klein goes full-Obama apologista with the following:
There’s no mystery as to why Congress is not doing more to help the economy: Disagreements between Republicans and Democrats have paralyzed the institution.
The fundamental postulate, that the government can manufacture jobs, is a total fallacy and if you don’t believe me, look it up.
The next idea Klein offers is that the President has been hamstrung by the Congress. None of this is Barry’s fault, even though Obama made himself the face of America’s way ahead in the 2008 campaign.
Who should really be blamed: Bush? Check.
Congress The House? Check. Obstinate Republicans? Check. Typhoons, an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplane, and Lenny Bruce is not afraid? Check. Obama’s debt, food stamps, imperial power grabs, disability payments, “you didn’t build that” philosophy, our budget-free Senate, etc.? No way, man!
Ezra, did you ever consider that when voters turned the House over to Republicans in the 2010 elections, it was because they wanted the Democrat Congress paralyzed?
Later, Klein offers an additional Obama gets-off-the-hook apologetic:
But there’s a real mystery as to why the Federal Reserve is not doing more to help the economy. Ben Bernanke, after all, keeps saying the central bank can do more, and if the economy gets worse, it will do more. But the economy keeps getting worse, and the Fed keeps not doing more.
Right. We all forgot the Fed is the keeper of the keys for the economy and the President’s influence is totally limited (except Bush, whose influence was unlimited and who put us in this deep, deep hole). So Bernanke is to blame as well. Bernanke and Bush, that is. And obstinate Republicans. And Congress (except the Senate).
That’s a source of much amusement to me. How can the traditional media blame Bush, who was simultaneously an evil genius, conspiracy king, puppet master, destroyer of economic value, and simpleton while they ignore the “accomplishments” of Barack Obama, he of the trillion dollar deficits, 40-something months of 8 percent-plus unemployment (and closer to 18 percent actual unemployment), and of course, being our most intelligent president ever?
Wow, that was a really long sentence. Sorry.
The sad thing is what’s been discussed so far reflects the most cogent parts of Klein’s article, which contains another message:
…I am convinced that there is something more the Fed can do, and that now is the right time for them to do it. I call it Uncle Ben’s Crazy Housing Sale.
Ezra appears to have found the codeine-laced cough syrup again and just started typing.
Say goodnight, Ezra. Please.
The irrepressible Ezra Klein—I mean that in a derogatory way; think of an irrepressible Charles Barkley at an all-you-can-eat seafood spread—has a piece at Bloomberg (which op-ed wise, tends to be a reflection of its nanny state founder). The thesis? That raising taxes can be a political winner for Barry Oh!
…polls consistently show that increasing taxes on the wealthy is hugely popular. In the same Gallup poll, 62 percent of respondents said “upper-income people” were paying too little in taxes. In a CNN/ORC International poll, also conducted in April, 68 percent of Americans agreed that “the present tax system benefits the rich and is unfair to the ordinary working man or woman” and 72 percent said they support changing the tax code “so that people who make more than one million dollars a year will pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes.”
What Klein ignores is the fundamental issue that should be driving discussions on tax rates: government spending. How big an issue is spending versus taxes? Charles Barkley big. Consider the nonsensical Buffett Rule of a few months ago:
[Obama’s] Buffett [tax] Rule would cover just 0.7% of all of Obama’s debt and .1% of Obama’s spending.
Instead the Klein focus is on protecting Obama, attempting to offer political advice to the Administration, and improve Obama’s re-election prospects while the nation continues towards a fiscal cliff based largely on one factor: the government spends way too much.
What’s a media man for America to do?
Try and defend the honor of the dead idea,of course. Unfortunately, ideas, no matter how bad or clearly disproven, seldom actually die; they just go into some form of hibernation.
And defending the honor is exactly what Ezra Klein (warmly known at this site as Ezra Klaun or Extra Klaun) does with this article which uses a rich liberal, David Levine, as its baseline and not as an anecdote:
It would be one thing, Levine says, if the economy had performed so much better after taxes on the rich were cut. But it didn’t. Some of the fastest economic growth of the post-war period came in the 1950s, when the top tax rate was above 80 percent. The slowest growth came in the 2000s, when the top tax rate was 35 percent.
Even Ezra knows what Levine doesn’t… kinda (emphasis added for the kinda part):
As Doug Holtz-Eakin, a conservative economist who squared off against Levine on a panel at the Tax Policy Center, argues, the post-World War II era was good for the United States. We had a kind of global monopoly that allowed us to live large and share the wealth. But that monopoly is gone, and there’s no tax regime that can bring it back.
Yes, after World War II, the United States had quite a few advantages. Our working population hadn’t been decimated (or worse), nor had our homeland. We were not only able to feed and clothe ourselves and sell to others, but we had huge, institutional, national-level advantages. However, the massive expansion of the role and reach of the U.S. government in the post-war era lessened our myriad advantages in a sad process often called reverting to the mean.
However, if we today assume a global-leveling of the ability to produce has occurred, what would help restore a national-level advantage? Taking more money from the makers and investors, running those funds through the black-box of government (reducing its value even more), in order to transfer those riches to the takers?
The wellspring of liberal ideas is shallow, sad, absurd, and surreal.
From Bloomberg comes the irrepressible Ezra Klein. The headline (no joke, it’s word-for-word): Don’t Worry About Deficit That Will Heal Itself.
I’m not particularly worried about the budget deficit. In fact, of all the major problems the U.S. faces, I’m least worried about the deficit.
…I’m confident that we will, one way or another, muddle through. Because when it comes to the deficit, Congress really has two choices: Do something to solve it, or do nothing and let that solve it. The same can’t be said for issues such as infrastructure and loose nukes and climate change and preparing for pandemic flu. On those questions, congressional inaction isn’t enough to make the problem disappear. So those are the issues I worry about.
The middle is no less idiotic. It’s sad.
Klein’s work became known to me for delivering some of the most simplistic pap there is—and he makes up for the weak writing and analysis by pushing a huge volume of his product. I have no idea why he’s as ubiquitous as he is, as his positions almost never offer insight or possess explanatory power.
He actually makes the satirist’s job difficult: his work is self-satirizing at its creation.
Posted by Ezra Klaun at 03:54 PM ET, 02/15/2012
(If you must, read the original here.)
Look: I too get tired of defending the President non-stop; of asserting that Media Matters doesn’t write my columns; of insisting anything I post makes sense at any level. Instead, consider this column more like a diary entry, a stream-of-consciousness revelation of my deepest, most hidden, and sometimes conflicted thoughts.
In his essay on President Obama, James Fallows questions the President’s assertion that he would prefer to be “a really mediocre one-term” president than a “bad” president who served two terms. “The reality,” this Fallows fellow writes, “is that Obama has a more than a reasonable chance for re-election and could well be a historically bad two-termer. Next, our judgment about ‘mediocre’ and ‘bad’ presidents is clouded by their very competence, an issue sure to haunt Obama. Finally, a failure to win reelection can place a ‘one-term loser’ asterisk on even genuine accomplishments. Ask George H. W. Bush, victor in the Gulf War; ask Jimmy Carter, architect of the Camp David agreement.”
Of course the problem with those comparisons is our Gulf War redux is still in full bloom, albeit migrated now to Afghanistan, and the Camp David agreement has been about as useful to Middle East peace as a tractor would be for Maureen Dowd. Still, does this mean even a one-term Barry Obama presidency is doomed to be a Barry Bonds-like asterisk in history books, or worse, a painful boil on the buttocks of the American people?
Of late, there have been a number of favorable assessments of Obama’s first term, with Andrew Sullivan’s essay in Newsweak perhaps the most clueless. Obama, he writes, plays a “long game” no one else is aware in order to claim credit for anything which seems positive in any way. “The president starts with that fake handshake thing and when others respond by ignoring his foolishness, he therefore demonstrates that they are the source of the problem.” No, iron-clad logic has never been one of Sullivan’s strengths.
Noam Scheiber’s article on “Why Obama Sucks” is somewhat more critical. He argues that “Obama’s greatest vulnerability as a leader” has been his consistent misunderstanding of things (the opposition, the issues, and timing are all mentioned). To Scheiber, Obama’s faux turn toward deficit reduction in 2011 was an unmitigated disaster. “His initial approach was too passive-aggressive, and he didn’t quit nearly soon enough.” But Obama’s saving grace is really a pattern: extended stupidity followed by miraculous recovery, which Scheiber says, has been present throughout Obama’s career. It was there in his primary campaign against Hillary Clinton, his response to Jeremiah Wright, and in having the good luck to run against John McCain. “Sooner or later, Obama may encounter a crisis that someone else can’t reverse for him at the eleventh hour,” Scheiber warns.
Fallows’s piece is perhaps the most balanced of the three. Obama, he says, “was unready for the presidency and is temperamentally and intellectually unsuited to it in many ways,” and yet, there has still been a profound “appreciation for the man by both the media and by other Democrats — an appreciation that remained pronounced despite a cluelessness that was exposed as early in his term as during the oath of office.” For Fallows, the best argument for Obama’s second term is that he may have learned what not to do during his first. “The evidence suggests that given a second term, he’d be hard pressed to be any worse than he’s been so far.”
All three pieces are illustrative but they all suffer from the same flaw: they don’t approach Obama from my perspective.
Using sneer quotes, Sullivan questions Obama’s real “accomplishments” and documents the economy’s “recovery,” but he never asks, much less answers, the question of whether a different strategy or philosophy would have led to less-bad accomplishments, a less-slow recovery, or a less-polarized political atmosphere. His essay is a superficial non-answer to Obama’s loudest and most substantive critics and it falls well short of being a persuasive defense of Obama’s record.
Scheiber harshly criticizes the administration’s handling of virtually everything and asserts the most salient fact of modern American politics — that Obama seems to prefer America’s destruction to genuine economic and foreign policy achievements. Some say this reflects poorly on the President and still others offer that America’s destruction won’t be seen as a major political accomplishment for much of the country.
Fallows believes Obama is personally aloof, emotionally cold, totally dependent on his insular “double-bubble” of advisers, and perhaps consequentially, has been unable to fully connect with anyone outside the media or liberal “elites.”
Again, through the use of sneer quotes, all three tell us of what Obama has actually “done.” Health-care “reform.” Dodd-Frank “reform.” The “stimulus” bill. The President “killing” Osama bin-Laden from the White House video-teleconference center. The “rejection” of the Keystone XL pipeline. “Solyndra.” The appointments of a “wise Latina woman” and a “wise softball player” to the Supreme Court.
We now have a better idea of what Obama wants to do. This includes raise taxes
across the board on the wealthy, spend invest more on “infrastructure” and “education” and, heal global warming and hold back the tides. Also, he wants to reduce the deficit by defaulting on U.S. financial obligations (although on an accelerated path than many Republicans say they would prefer). Finally, he wants to roll back Citizens United (except for the Obama Super PAC), and end war, world hunger, and obesity.
Given that Mitt Romney is a cult member and that Eugene Robinson describes Rick Santorum as “really weird,” the question is not whether Obama “deserves” a second term, but rather if Romney or Santorum should be allowed to freely walk the streets of America. For Obama’s presidency to be remembered as one of the most consequential in recent American history (remember some will suggest that ‘most consequential’ is not necessarily the same as ‘most competent’ or ‘most accomplished’), he does not need a new strategy, or a new personality. He simply needs to win a second term.
There, I said it. Obama has a (D) by his name, so I guess I’ve worked my confliction out after all.
Wonkbag is compiled and produced with help from Dana Milkbag, Karl Schwinger, and Media Matters for America.
Ezra Klown, Doomberg. Posted at the current clock time minus one minute.
To listen to the President’s soaring State of the Union address and his earlier speech in Osawatomie, Kansas, the 2012 election is a no-tapout clash featuring the Republicans (as the iceberg) versus the people of the United States (as the Titanic). Icebergs are slow, white, and dangerous. On the other hand, the RMS Titanic was made in Ireland, served as a significant moneymaker for Hollywood, and lacked adequate lifeboats. The lifeboats themselves serve as a metaphor (I think; it could be an analogy) for Social Security and Medicare funding and the taxes needed to support these essential transfer programs.
Where was I? Oh, yeah, the election. So the election is the Red Sox playing the Packers in the World Cup, the elves versus the management of the Keebler factory, and the Germans against Pearl Harbor, all rolled into one. What do all these things mean? Simple: they’re a reflection of the President’s sometimes painful but certainly necessary class-warfare-with-a-smile plan.
So regardless of what anyone like me says, the 2012 election matters. A lot. A whole lot. A whole, whole lot. That’s because the winning party will reap political benefits from holding office. As for the ideological showdown of the century? Nah. That’s because even though the Republican candidate is certain to be a dangerous, hateful, racist, kook, President Obama, when re-elected, will continue to govern as a true centrist.
“President Obama wants to put free enterprise on trial,” Mitt Romney says, sounding much like a dangerous, hateful, racist, cult member. But fear not, because the former governor of Massachusetts “will offer the American ideals of economic freedom a clear and unapologetic defense.” Well!
Romney’s comments suggest he’s running against Vladimir Lenin, who Wikipedia tells us was a communist, and if alive, would be very, very old. Over a hundred years old. But what has Barack Obama actually done or proposed to do?
Well, there was the nearly $800 billion “stimulus” that kept unemployment below 8 percent. Then there was the much needed $500 billion per year health-care law, pejoratively called “Obamacare” that will actually save money and provide free health care to all. There was the important financial-regulation bill that erected a protective judicial and monetary safety net for important insiders associated with the U.S. financial systems and assured us we’ll never again have to deal with “too big to fail” banks, or for that matter, the Euro.
The President also extended the Bush tax credits to those who pay no tax and has insisted on deficit reduction, to include tax increases, even as he calls for much-needed investment in infrastructure (which Republicans cynically say is another way of saying ‘spending for investment,’ or which even more cynical Republicans say is really ‘borrowing for investment’). Finally, he wants to increase the taxes, but wisely, just up to what’s fair, for those fat-cats who hope to earn more than a million dollars in their lifetimes. Oh, and don’t forget the President killed Bin Laden from the White House video-teleconference center, the most important foreign policy accomplishment since the 1928 Kellogg–Briand Pact.
So to call these accomplishments “radical” really depends on how you define radical. You can look at these vital achievements with high confidence that they are neither radical nor inimical to free enterprise, the rule of law, or democracy. Yes, Obama has pursued an ambitious, yet totally centrist, agenda and capitalism will perhaps survive his use of the leviathan of government to achieve desirable, necessary, and traditional liberal ends. Yes, Obama’s rhetoric toward the Republicans is overheated, but deservedly so: if they can’t understand his agenda, they should accept they are simply unable to appreciate his truly dizzying intellect.
If anything is on trial in the 2012 elections, it is not Obama, who is firmly supported by every single person I know. His re-election in November is certain to serve as a reminder of the vast and far reaching greatness of the American welfare-state and the people’s willingness to be ruled by brilliant (if sometimes poorly understood) elites.
Yesterday afternoon, I was asked to give a speech on the 2012 elections to an elementary school. It ended up being an opportunity to step back from the day-to-day crush of my own non-stories and endless failures and to have my thinking challenged by my contemporaries, always a useful thing. It was right before recess and everyone was a bit on edge; it also made me think more broadly about what matters, and what doesn’t really matter, in 2012.
With that non sequitur out of the way, let me now try and convince you about what won’t matter in the upcoming elections, or better said, why I don’t want you to think it will matter as much as the coverage of it might imply.
The South Carolina primary: Mitt Romney’s success or failure there won’t matter because he’ll lose the general election. Want proof? I don’t know one person who’d vote for Romney.
The campaign: Romney will struggle against President Obama because (as I’ve already explained) I don’t know one person who’d vote for Romney. The people I know really do think Obama has been a disaster for America, but like me, they’ve all made too big a psychic investment to admit as much, let alone to vote for a barbarian like Romney.
Blunders: During the course of the campaign, any Obama gaffe will be buried, unless it appears in a live debate. Oh, it might show up on YouTube before Google blocks it, but future blunders will be swept away, just as they should be and just as past blunder have been.
Money: Both Obama and Romney have enough money to compete. But Obama will have more, which is the metric my inner circle uses as a measure of goodness. Actual votes you say? How archaic.
Early polls: Honestly, just ignore them unless they favor Obama or anyone with a “D” by their name.
Mitt Romney’s candidacy: There’s strong evidence suggesting that John McCain exerted a substantial drag on the Republican ticket in 2008. There’s no way Romney’s candidacy will be as inept as McCain but it just won’t matter.
But here are some things to watch that do matter:
The economy: the President handlers told me he has done such a great job with the economy that this, as an area of concern to the American people, will largely take care of itself.
Europe: because the President wants us to look like Europe, what Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and the European Central Bank do in the next six months might matter in the election. Or they might not, I’m not really sure.
The fiscal drag: in 2011, the President’s handlers told me he created 1.6 million jobs. If there hadn’t been any Republicans, he could have created something closer to 100 million jobs. The point here is that sources matter.
Taxes: One line on the election is that it’s going to be about jobs, but I think it’s going to be about taxes. Three reasons: First, the President’s handlers told me so (and sources matter). Second, the GOP’s top priority is creating or preserving taxes cuts for millionaires and billionaires. Third, Republicans think they have a winning issue in painting Obama as Jimmy Carter. Fools.
Congress: InTrade gives Democrats a 30 percent chance to take back the House and only a 20 percent chance to keep the Senate. Remember what I told you about polls: ignore them unless they favor Democrats.
The Supreme Court: the Supreme Court is very old, like the Constitution, in fact, well over 100 years old. Since it’s over 100 years old, it gets tired and can’t hear all the cases it should, like on giving a ruling endorsing the Obamacare mandate.
The lame-duck session: On January 1, 2013, the Obama-approved Bush tax cuts expire and the spending trigger goes off. That means that unless President Obama rightfully seizes power from the Congress, we will see $4 trillion in tax increases, $500 billion in defense cuts, and $500 billion in domestic spending cuts.
Unknown unknowns: A few months ago, the President killed Osama bin Laden from a White House video-teleconference center. If another such event is needed six months from now to win the election, the President could reveal that bin Laden really isn’t dead (some sort of military-induced DNA error would be used as an excuse for the mistake), followed by a convenient “escape,” and then, whaddya know, the President could “kill” him all over again. So it’s entirely possible that man-made events like that, man-made global warming, or DOJ-observed ‘voting-irregularities’ invalidating the results from all the red/swing states, may take the election in a direction only Tim Tebow, Chuck Norris, or Al Gore can then affect. All it takes is lawyers, guns, and money, items the Democrats possess in massive advantage.
Wonkbag is compiled and produced with help from Dana Milkbag and Karl Schwinger.