Yesterday, Sarabeth caught me by surprise with this:
Everyone simply assumes that the tax cuts were inserted to attract Republican votes. But there’s really no evidence of that, is there? None whatsoever. We assume they were inserted for that reason, because we assume that no one on the Democratic side of things believes they have any place in a stimulus bill. Nobody, including Obama.
However, that’s just one big assumption. If we were to approach this scientifically, we would be unable to reject the hypothesis that the $300 billion worth of tax cuts were stuck in there because Obama really wanted them in the bill, in and of himself, as it were, without any reference to Republicans. Just Obama being Obama, bringing us the “the more things stay the same” flavor of change.
I’m kicking myself for completely assuming that he pre-negotiated (or “negotiated with himself” to use the parlance of our time) the tax cuts into the stimulus bill, because I have been saying for more than four years that Obama a) isn’t a liberal, b) doesn’t much like liberals, and c) is totally willing to kick his nominal party to burnish his brand. I’ve said it so often that the text should have its own shortcut button on my keyboard. To make matters worse, I’ve been kicking around in my head the cabinet/advisor lineup for the last week. Even if individual cabinet appointments can be written off as “the best man for the job” independent of ideology, when you look at the makeup of Brand Obama’s top guys, a couple things become very clear. Obama’s national security team features no one who opposed the war in Iraq. Likewise, his economic team doesn’t contain a single member who opposed/opposes Wall Street bailouts. Further clarification comes when one considers the list of exceptionally qualified people who spoke out either against the Iraq war or barbecuing stacks of cash to protect the very companies that ruined the economy. Tim Geithner and Larry Summers could have been counterbalanced by Paul Krugman (Nobel laureate), Joseph Stiglitz (Nobel laureate), or Dean Baker. Would it have been out of the question to find places for General Wes Clark and General Anthony Zinni opposite Robert Gates and James Jones? Even the two people notable for their correct positions on these respective issues, General Eric Shinseki (VA) and Jared Bernstein (advisor to the VP) are in absolutely no position to influence policy. Throw in the persona non grata status of Howard Dean, and you have a pattern that requires logical gymnastics to deny. This is about the farthest thing from the “team of rivals” ideal that Obama’s slippery spokesmen promised and brain-dead supporters parroted.
And really, when you step out of the personnel debate, you’re left with the policy and communications. Obama praised the Senate version of the stimulus and forced the House to change theirs. Obama said he would pull out of Iraq, yet all we hear is that the timeline is being stretched once again. He decried Bush’s secrecy, torture, and rendition, but is reserving the “right” to continue it all in some kind of kinder, gentler evil. And possibly worst of all is the TARP and what to do with the insolvent banks:
Here’s the above-mentioned Dean Baker:
Mr. Geithner wants to use taxpayer dollars to keep bankrupt banks in business. In effect, he wants to tax teachers, fire fighters, and Joe the Plumber to protect the wealth of the banks’ shareholders and to pay high salaries to their top executives.
Geithner and Summers were hardly unknown quantities when Obama selected them. Geithner was in the middle of Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill and Morgan Stanley. Summers led the cheers from the op-ed pages. And before that, they both contributed to the deregulation that allowed Wall Street to run wild. And despite Obama’s occasional semi-populist head fakes, he chose the team that wants to cut spending for the social safety net, cut taxes for the rich, and vaporize money to protect shareholders who profited from the upside, but can’t take their medicine on the downside.
If all of this is an accident, the the people who argue that Obama is a genius find themselves looking like morons. And if this is part of some grand scheme to turn the country liberal, then the people who are arguing that Obama is playing some kind of three dimensional chess should let me in on the secret. Because otherwise, The Razor is in play, and Occam says Obama put his team in place to make sure the status stayed quo. And given the weight of the actual evidence — and the dearth of reasons to continue arguing that Obama’s at all progressive — isn’t it time to own up to reality?
*And like clockwork, just after I finished writing this late Monday night, there’s this:
Well, maybe CNBC was wrong. The Times is saying that it’s a bit more of the ‘bad bank’ after all. And the big story seems to be that Geithner won out against what the Times refers to as “some of the president’s top political hands” who wanted tougher controls over the banks and less giveaways for the banks’ shareholders.
Kleptocracy over populism (and correct policy.)