Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Obama should keep trying to work with Congress

Republican Jon Huntsman blurted out that Republican adults have to accept the theory of evolution. He softened the blow by acknowledging that he might be crazy. President Obama must be sorely tempted to take his own itchy warriors aside and tell them: an effective President has to work with Congress. He can’t spend the next fourteen months whining from the White House pulpit.

Jared Bernstein, Vice President Biden’s former chief economist well represents the confrontational mood of Democrat advisors. At the conclusion of an ambitious stimulus plan entitled “Obama’s Got Plenty of Options to right the Economy—He’s Just Got to Fight for Them” he exclaims:
“But … but … Congress will block him,” you say. On most of these ideas, probably so, though I’d put the renewal of the payroll tax cut at above 50 percent, and the unemployment insurance extension only slightly below half.
And, as for the rest of his plan, if Obama gets fired up around an agenda anything like the one I’ve outlined, and if he’s very clear about who, precisely, is standing between America and that jobs agenda, I think he’ll not only regain his footing and provide a stark contrast between himself and his opponents, but his fierce advocacy will give the country something to feel good about. And man, we really need that.”
Maybe this is crazy too. But, is fighting for something really what people want? Will standing in stark contrast for a year make anyone feel good—excepting wordsmiths for next year’s presidential election?
Here’s a counter-scenario. By all means “go big” but design a plan that reasonable Republicans as well as reasonable Democrats can be reasonably asked to support. Furthermore, the President should stand by the process he used with Congress to secure the debt-ceiling agreement. He should make it clear that he’s not campaigning in Iowa but governing in Washington.
The ugliness of the crisis overwhelmed the substance of the debt-ceiling deal. Yet, Washington, in the end, worked. There won’t be another showdown like it before the next election. A legislative process to eliminate over half the structural deficit was agreed to and the capital markets didn’t respond by raising interest rates. Finally, no additional spending cuts—as demanded by Republican hawks—will be imposed on the fragile recovery over the next fifteen months.
Hard-line Keynesians and Tea Party supporters won’t be impressed by the next fiscal deal between Congress and the President. However, they’re probably both wrong anyway. The US economy can’t be turned immediately by a radical increase in spending or a radical reduction in the size of government. One option could drive interest rates up and one would further shrink consumer spending.
Moderate Republicans are increasingly anxious to find middle ground and, more important, American business is ready for short-term stimulus and a settled long-term strategy to encourage growth.  
Leave extravagant ideas and rhetoric to the primaries, Mr President, and stick to your own instincts in Washington.

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