Tuesday :: Feb 3, 2009

Not All Doom and Gloom

by Deacon Blues

Obviously, it is an embarrassment and a black mark on the transition team’s vetting process that three of its candidates flamed out over things that should have been caught weeks ago. It’s even worse that the team went ahead with these picks, as if Richardson’s possible grand jury troubles, and Geithner’s/Daschle’s/Killefer’s tax stupidities weren’t signals enough that these were out-of-touch individuals. And even worse is that the administration has no backup plan for Daschle.

I don’t think Daschle’s flameout will set back Obama’s health care agenda and timetable, because major health care reform won't happen until later this year anyway, and I was never sold on Daschle as a salesman for this cause. He was a loser as a Senate leader, so why did anyone inside the inner circle actually think he was able to sell stubborn GOP pricks on health care now? If Obama really wants health care reform, there is only one person who can sell that, and that’s the president himself. As Krugman noted late last week, Obama needs to push it now because fixing health care is integral to restoring our industries to a competitive footing with their overseas rivals. The GOP knows this, and desperately wants to strip all health care-related items from the stimulus bill to make Obama have the big fight over health care later in the year, separate from the urgency of the moment. And this is why the administration needs to keep the Medicaid expansion and assistance for unemployed workers in this bill, because they are related to economic recovery, and it makes no sense to put off health care assistance now when people have recently lost it because of this depression.

I am glad that Obama fessed up and took the blame today, even though some will say that it makes him look weak. Face it, he’s looked weak already, and hasn’t paid a big price for it yet. The bigger issue is how far he is willing to go in the Senate to get a bill. The Post noted this morning that Obama basically told congressional Democrats yesterday to get a bill done, no matter what it took. He’s banking on the notion that the public wants something done, and doesn’t care too much about who’s imprint is on it. That may be, but Obama should not give up several things no matter what. First, this bill must have state assistance in it, because state budget cuts will kill off the positive effects of any federal help. Second, as I said before, he has to keep the health care-related assistance in there, because if he pulls it out now, the GOP will stall it to death later. Third, this bill has to have large infrastructure investments in it, because the public supports that and can easily identify with it. Linking that to energy independence measures like green projects and a national energy grid is all the better. And lastly, Obama needs to find a populist hook or two that can sell this, like major jobs projects, guaranteed health care for the unemployed, bashing corporate greed (limiting CEO pay), and infrastructure so that the agenda sells itself. Up until now, he has let the GOP move the debate from these good selling points to their usual misdirection move into “wasteful spending.”

Having said that, some of the ideas from the GOP Senate caucus are good ones, even better than the crap from the House Democrats. Obama should be willing to trade some of these for his core agenda outlined above. If the Senate Republicans want to whittle down the tax package so that it moves away from questionable rebates and towards a one-year marginal rate reduction for the lower income brackets and corporations, take that deal and tell them “thanks”, but it has to come with a large infrastructure package, and not the pathetic amounts being bandied about now. If the Senate Republicans want to put homeowner financing assistance into this bill instead of having Obama beat their brains out on the issue in a separate piece of legislation later, bank that and say “thanks”, but it has to go hand-in-hand with the temporary health care assistance for the unemployed. And if they rightly want a lot of the questionable spending projects stripped out of the House wish list, do it and marry it with the assistance for the states. The bottom line is that a good package can be put together that will get at least 5-7 GOP votes, if not more, once Obama and Reid show they are willing to trade a little without giving up their core “must haves.”

I do agree with Soto on one thing though: who the f*ck at the White House thought Gregg was a good idea?

Deacon Blues :: 9:46 PM :: Comments (7) :: Digg It!