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July 18, 2011
Obama, Clinton and Robert Reich
Robert Reich has gotten into the funny stuff again. In the Wall Street Journal, the former denizen of the Clinton administration weaves a tall tale to support yet another fanciful argument:
In the remaining 955 words, Reich tries to make that last sentence appear true.
Reich starts by contending that Chief of Staff Bill Daley, National Economic Council head Gene Sperling, and Pentagon chief Leon Panetta, all "Clinton veterans who know the 1995-96 story line by heart," cast an aura of centrism over left-wing Obama. Never mind that Barack Obama's actual behavior remains decidedly non-Clintonesque. Never mind that Obama ignores centrist advice and digs in left-wing heels.
As amusing and mendacious as ever, Reich vilifies House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and other Republicans for being "unwilling to bend and risk defaulting on the nation's bills -- while President Obama offers to cut Social Security and reduce $3 of spending for every dollar of tax increase." Reich mentions neither Obama's inflexible fixation on raising taxes on small businesses nor the President's dictatorial debt deal preconditions, which rule out far-reaching spending cuts.
The professor does however see radicals in the debt negotiations. But the man who wants to confiscate more money from employers during a jobless recovery from the worst recession since the Great Depression is no radical. No, it is Republicans -- risking the anger of the debt rating gods -- who "appear all the more radical."
Reich argues that Obama hasn't the option to "pull a Bill Clinton" and move to the center. Obama's only choice is to stare down a radical GOP. Reich even treats the reader to some distractive silliness about how Japanese supply chains and bad weather hamper Obama's noble attempts to fix the economy yadda yadda yadda.... Still, I give the professor credit for admitting something that many on the left have yet to acknowledge:
Unsurprisingly, after the brief encounter with clarity, muddled thinking reemerges. Reich's advice to Obama? More economic stimulus. Obama must push for "a bold jobs plan that would increase outlays over the next year or two but would credibly begin a long-term plan to shrink the budget. To the extent the jobs plan spurs growth, the long-term ratio of debt to GDP will improve." Economic moronism. Spend more future taxpayer dollars and rack up more debt to repay more "outlays" and more interest on those outlays? The tactic has repeatedly dug deeper economic holes.
But never let it be said that reality discourages the dogmatist from preaching dogma. Calling for a government "jobs plan" that "spurs growth" constitutes Reich's most flagrant economic idiocy. Anyone not seeing that government must get out of the way to allow for growth, which precedes hiring, is thought-challenged. To be sure, Reich functions not in a clear thinker's world, but instead in the realm of "public policy" at the University of California, Berkeley.
The specifics of Reich's "jobs plan" betray a desperate economic illiteracy. The plan begins well, with a year-long $20,000 payroll tax exemption. Increasing workers' purchasing power would spur some growth. But Reich's prescription quickly decomposes. By definition, any government "jobs plan" necessarily diverts economic and human resources from productive private enterprises into government boondoggles.
The foray into economic folly reaches crescendo when our public policy professor calls for an FDR-like Works Progress Administration and a Civilian Conservation Corps. Such programs would "employ the long-term jobless, creating an infrastructure bank to finance improvements to roads and bridges, enacting partial unemployment benefits for those who have been laid off from part-time jobs, and giving employers tax credits for net new hires."
The recommendations constitute the same old progressive song and dance: bass-ackwards "reasoning" justifying government make-work baloney. For government could dangle carrots in front of businesses until the moon turns to cheese, but without sustained growth enabled by low tax and regulatory burdens, there is no sound business reason to hire.
Professor Reich closes his commentary by acknowledging probable debt battle outcomes with which most observers agree. The debt ceiling will be raised. A fawning media will exalt Barack Obama as an adult centrist Democrat who has triumphed over childish radical Republicans. Even a squirrely, heavily impaired progressive occasionally stumbles on an acorn of truth.
A writer, physicist, former high tech executive, and Cajun, Chuck Rogér invites you to sign up to receive his "Clear Thinking" blog posts by email at http://www.chuckroger.com/. Contact Chuck at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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