Is Barack Obama Doing a Jerry Brown?

On the debt ceiling debate, this seems to me a good sign (from the New York Times today):

“We don’t need a minideal,” Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat, said Wednesday on the Senate floor. “We need something that speaks authoritatively to the world that the United States understands its deficit challenge and is prepared to make the hard choices to address it.”

And President Obama appears to be swinging for the fences in a grand gesture (again, according to the New York Times):

Mr. Obama, who is to meet at the White House with the bipartisan leadership of Congress in an effort to work out an agreement to raise the federal debt limit, wants to move well beyond the $2 trillion in savings sought in earlier negotiations and seek perhaps twice as much over the next decade, Democratic officials briefed on the negotiations said Wednesday.

Barack Obama appears to be on the path that Democratic Governor Jerry Brown has recently taken in California (in which painful but honest budget decisions were made, and the state’s deficit substantially reduced). It’s good politics, and it will put President Obama on a road to probable reelection. Nobody wants to live in a state or country that appears to be going broke.

My bet is that Obama will win a grand deal over the next month and there will be smiles all around.

Overall, Barack Obama has proved to be a pretty darn good president, don’t you think?

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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2 Responses to Is Barack Obama Doing a Jerry Brown?

  1. Cody Deitz says:

    I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts on whether or not you’ll be voting for Obama in 2012. He definitely didn’t get as much done as I’d hoped he would but there don’t seem to be too many appealing options…

    • santitafarella says:

      Cody,

      I intend to, though I don’t think Romney would make a bad president. He might well make a pretty good one. I, personally, believe that Romney is a closet liberal on social matters. He just also happens to be a narcissist who will say anything to become president. I’m not thrilled with narcissists (the Democrats had their own overt narcissist in John Edwards), but of a poor Republican field, Romney is tolerable.

      However, I’m worried about who Romney might put on his ticket with him. And, of course, if Romney fails to get the Republican nomination, I’d be extremely troubled by the mentality and policies of the other nominees.

      Barack Obama, in my view, won’t win reelection unless he does what Jerry Brown did: don’t raise taxes but cut the deficit with painful cuts. In other words, Obama needs to right his presidency with economic policies that are traditionally associated with Reagan, Thatcher, Friedman, and Laffer. I think that the past 2 years have demonstrated that Keynsian economic strategues don’t work all that well. You can borrow a trillion dollars now, but at 3% interest it means you’ve got to pay out 30 billion dollars a year for as long as the debt is outstanding. Not smart in the long run. And there’s been lots of stimulus, both on the Federal level and on the monetary side (with Ben Bernanke).

      I know, this all sounds weird coming from a liberal like me. But I’m losing my faith in Keynesian economic policies (as, I think, Obama has). If I were an advisor to the president, I’d advise him to act like a Republican president for a year and a half: cut a grand economic policy deal with the Republican-controlled house and peel off enough moderate to conservative Democrats to get it passed. Obama is trying to do this right now. I hope he succeeds.

      I’d rather see Obama try conservative supply-side economic policies than see Romney do it a year and a half from now. If they succeed, great! If they don’t, Romney will pursue them anyway (because Obama will be out).

      The grand gestures that Obama should pursue are these: reform the tax code so that rates are down and flatter (and loopoles are eliminated); exempt banking from the experiment, but try some deregulation elsewhere; cut federal spending dramatically; seek a balanced budget ammendment; look for opportunities to expand free trade.

      I want Obama to win because, if he does so, he can pursue other aspects of his social agenda. But liberals can only win nowadays if they largely keep the economy growing, and it appears that this largely entails maintaining or advancing generally Friedmanite economic policies. Clinton recognized this; Obama has acted more like Jimmy Carter.

      What I would worry about if Obama doesn’t win is a right-wing agenda that cuts the wrong kinds of federal regulations (like certain environmental laws, etc).

      In any case, Obama isn’t dumb. He’s trying to triangulate a strategy that locates his economic policies to the center right, and I’m hoping that he manages to do it (and that they are in place long enough for them to matter by the Fall of 2012). It may, however, be that Obama sows and Romney reaps. Obama may be too late to his own revelation that what he has been doing is not working.

      —Santi

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