Friday, August 06, 2010


I thoroughly enjoyed Paul Krugman's evisceration of Paul Ryan, the overpraised GOP Doctor of Economic Thinkology whose budget plans won't actually balance the country's books but will rob from the non-rich to give to the rich in yet more tax cuts. (Krugman explains all this, succinctly and without pulling punches.)

But it occurs to me that the GOP and its noise machine, by shining the spotlight on Ryan, are doing precisely what President Obama didn't do in the early days of his presidency: they're showcasing a plan that goes very, very far ideologically -- and the result of this is that, once they have real control of the government, effectively in two years or totally in four, they can "compromise" on ideas like Ryan's and still push the country very, very far in the direction they want to go (i.e., slashing have-nots' benefits and cutting the taxes of the haves).

Now, why didn't Obama think of something like that? We know we needed a couple billion trillion in stimulus to replace the lost economic activity caused by the recession. A smart Democratic president would have understood the need for a left-wing Ryan to call for much, much more stimulus, so the compromise would be the right amount (rather than the inadequate sub-billion trillion amount we got). Same with health care: a left-wing Ryan could have made it seem as if single payer was really on the table, and we'd at least have a public option by now.

I know, I know: Obama didn't really share those progressive goals. This is a guy (as we know today) who lets Larry Summers win and Christina Romer lose.

Yeah, well, this is also a guy who's getting slammed as a communist when he barely approaches liberal. So we get the worst of both: ideological demonization without any of the benefits of a policy actually rooted in ideology. Better to put an uber-ideologue out there as a bad cop, seem like the good cop, and do something based on a worldview, rather than on a pathetic fusion of half-hearted left-centrism and conventional wisdom.

(More Krugman reactions at Memeorandum.)

No comments: