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Obama nominates Alan Krueger as chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers
August 29, 2011 5:46 AM   Subscribe

White House economic policy largely originates with The Council of Economic Advisers, CEA, who directly advise the President of the United States. CEA research and publish the annual Economic Report of the President[ .pdf ], which details the state of the nation's economic health. Today President Barack Obama is expected to nominate Princeton Economist Alan Krueger as chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Krueger, who previously held the post of Assistant Treasury Secretary for Economic Policy, has written on a wide range of topics, from the economics of rock music [ .pdf ], the causes of terrorism [ .pdf ] and American's changing work / life balance. But Krueger is best known as a labor economist who has extensively researched long term unemployment.

Krueger on Swedish active labor market policies targeting long term unemployment[ .pdf ]. Kruger on Empirical Strategies towards Labor Economics [ .pdf ]. Krueger on adopting active labor market policies in America[ .pdf ]. With unemployment in America still uncomfortably high even more than two years since the recession ended, does Krueger's appointment signal a change in The Obama Administration's priorities?
posted by Mutant (69 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
It should be noted that Krueger is a skeptic when it comes to the effectiveness of active labor market policies, and the linked papers all conclude that most such policies are ineffective and expensive, so while this is an admirable appointment it's hardly a change in policy.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:53 AM on August 29, 2011


maybe if we want to stop getting ruled by the top 1% we should stop electing Presidents educated at their indoctrination camps.
posted by any major dude at 6:17 AM on August 29, 2011 [13 favorites]


Krueger is maybe one of the top three labor economists of his generation. Good pick. His work with David Card and with Josh Angrist has virtually singlehandedly transformed all of labor economics, and from there, the rest of empirical microeconomics.

I can't back this up, but I'll just say it anywhere, but I think Krueger's inuence may even be seem in the growing use of experiments in development economics, which is characterized by careful research design to support causal inference. Krueger's the beginning of the applied micro revolution, and i predict within 20 years he with Card and Angrist wil share it.

Anywhere that said, no one informed about Krueger would likely say this was anything other than Obama picking the best. Low risk choice given the huge problems with unemployment.

On terrorism, though, I think you are better to have Eli Burman in mind.
posted by scunning at 6:26 AM on August 29, 2011


If Goolsbee is any judge, the chief job of the CEA chairman is less to advise the President on policy than to go on The Daily Show and CNBC with a Tim Russert style whiteboard and attempt to whitewash whatever ineffective tax cuts or mealy mouthed quartermeasures the President is reading off his Geithnerprompter this week.

I bet this guy is a wizard with a whiteboard.
posted by T.D. Strange at 6:37 AM on August 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


I took my share of economics classes in college, so I probably know just enough to be dangerous, but,really, are the causes and results of our current situation not fairly damn obvious?
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:39 AM on August 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


So, even though the group advises the White House, the position is subject to Senate approval, right? Anyone have a feel as to whether this appointment is going to be subject to yet another hold-up?
posted by Thorzdad at 7:02 AM on August 29, 2011


Krueger is maybe one of the top three labor economists of his generation. Good pick. His work with David Card and with Josh Angrist has virtually singlehandedly transformed all of labor economics, and from there, the rest of empirical microeconomics.

These changes - are they for the better? Because I don't see many economic policies enacted in the past 30 years that have done good things for labor. Is it a better understanding of microeconomics? Then why have economists missed the tech bubble, the real estate bubble, the banking crisis, the commodities bubble and a jobless recovery, unless microeconomics is just more useless navelgazing?

Or are these changes just ways for the ultra-wealthy to stack the deck even deeper in their favor in climates that roast the average American alive?

How the hell have economists helped a damn thing in the past 25 years? They're almost all lapdogs - pets kept by the rich and powerful.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:14 AM on August 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


It amuses me that some refers to higher education, and at one of the most prestigious schools at that, as an indoctrination camp. I also hear this from the conservatives. "There are only liberal professors! We don't have a voice! Conservatives are shouted down on our nation's campuses." Blah blah blah.

I'm just guessing here, not having a Harvard degree, but I bet it's hard to get out of that place without learning to think for one's self.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:53 AM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Then why have economists missed the tech bubble, the real estate bubble, the banking crisis, the commodities bubble and a jobless recovery, unless microeconomics is just more useless navelgazing?

That's a very harsh remark that's just mean spirited. Economists aren't oracles. They're analysts and academics in a social science. Saying that the discipline of economics has failed because it hasn't averted every bubble (and to be frank, some economists do notice these bubbles, but nobody listens) is like saying psychology or sociology has failed when they can't predict exactly the next school shooting.

And to be frank, they're academics, so they're gonna love navelgazing!
posted by FJT at 8:00 AM on August 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


How the hell have economists helped a damn thing in the past 25 years? They're almost all lapdogs - pets kept by the rich and powerful.
posted by Slap*Happy


This can't be repeated enough. The mass beheadings should make for a much more realistic next incarnation of the science of economics.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 8:16 AM on August 29, 2011


That's a very harsh remark that's just mean spirited. Economists aren't oracles. They're analysts and academics in a social science. Saying that the discipline of economics has failed because it hasn't averted every bubble (and to be frank, some economists do notice these bubbles, but nobody listens) is like saying psychology or sociology has failed when they can't predict exactly the next school shooting.

If it was the lack of predictive power, it could be that more research is needed, or that the subject is simply not very predictable. Both of these are probably true anyway.

The problem is that economists say what they are told to say by those in power, and by now our problems are so large and obvious even non-economists can see through it all. It's not that we know how to fix it. It's that we know that nothing even remotely useful will come out of those tainted mouths.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 8:22 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


cjorgensen: "It amuses me that some refers to higher education, and at one of the most prestigious schools at that, as an indoctrination camp. I also hear this from the conservatives. "There are only liberal professors! We don't have a voice! Conservatives are shouted down on our nation's campuses." Blah blah blah.

I'm just guessing here, not having a Harvard degree, but I bet it's hard to get out of that place without learning to think for one's self.
"

Funny, because this is precisely what JK Galbraith argues in Economics and the Public Purpose.

That is - educational systems for economics indoctrinate economists into a certain way of thinking about the economy in order to service the power that runs the game.

If you think groupthink isn't a powerful force in human society you must be a libertarian ;)
posted by symbioid at 9:21 AM on August 29, 2011 [12 favorites]


I'm just guessing here, not having a Harvard degree, but I bet it's hard to get out of that place without learning to think for one's self.

I'm just guessing here, you probably haven't worked with many people that graduated from an ivy league school.
posted by any major dude at 10:10 AM on August 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


With any of the Ivy League places, how smart you are coming in depends on if you got in on a 'legacy' deal. How smart you are going out depends entirely on your own efforts.

Economics is a social science requiring a good bit of mathematics. This does not make you a psychic.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 10:35 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


It amuses me that some refers to higher education, and at one of the most prestigious schools at that, as an indoctrination camp.

One of my persistent educational memories was sitting in on an econ class while a professor was talking about rational choice theory and how it underlies a good chunk of mainstream economic thought.

I'm sure I can hardly be the first person to have raised my hand and ask what the evidence is that people behave as rational actors. I'm still actually a little stunned by his response: "Well, what's the alternative? Having the government make our decisions for us?"

The funny thing is that I didn't even care *at all* about the policy implications when I asked the question (nor do I believe the government should *generally* be making economic decisions for individuals, even after following an increasingly progressive trajectory on economic matters, though I do think it's possible for the state to improve on laissez-faire in certain specific areas). All I was really doing was asking about the value of the field -- it seemed to me that this was a really questionable assumption and if it the field was premised on it, the field was going to suffer in terms of both accounting causes and predictive power.

I don't know if I really even got a chance to clarify my objection. I was just taken aback by the fact that rather than answering the question, he'd jumped to what he saw as an unacceptable implication of a non-rational-actor method and responded to that instead. And before long, he'd jumped right back to reinforcing the material. No evidence, no reasoned argument, rational choice apparently taken as an axiom because not having it apparently equals totalitarianism.

This wasn't an Ivy, and he wasn't trained at an Ivy, but I would have assumed that MIT might have drummed a little more intellectual rigor than that into him. Unless that's not precisely what they do in econ programs.

I recognize judging the whole field by that moment would probably be a greater error, and I've met people who were more thoughtful about their support of rational choice (or their objections!) as well as other theories. But my experience seems to be that the dogmatic aren't exactly rare even among the professorial class.
posted by weston at 11:01 AM on August 29, 2011 [16 favorites]


Economics doesn't make you a psychic, but you can have flawed models and if the majority of people (especially the ones running the joint) all believe in that model, and when that model continually gets proven to be wrong, time and time again, then doing it over and over, what's that the supposed definition of again?

Of course, the question then becomes is the model wrong or what we (poor lower/middle class shlubs) want/expect out of that model wrong.

Maybe, just maybe that model works perfectly dang well for those at the top and they have no incentive to alter it, even if it does fuck the rest of us over. Goldman Sachs sure as fuck isn't crying (at least, if they are, it's all the way to their own little investment banks).
posted by symbioid at 11:03 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Economics is a social science requiring a good bit of mathematics. This does not make you a psychic.

I'm not a psychic, or even all that clever with advanced mathematics and computer modeling, but I could have told you there was something fishy in the real estate bubble, and that there's something fishy with the price of gold and oil right now. The economists are all fluttering their wings and squawking something about the Fed and QE3 and pent up demand, ignoring that it's been out of control for years. There's something fishy about record profits =and= record unemployment, and everyone knows it except for the mystified economists who are quibbling about demand or regulatory environment (shorthand for "We want the GOP back in power and will say anything to make it happen").

I'm not saying I can time the market, I can't. I'd go broke shorting gold or oil as an individual investor. I'm saying these economists better earn their bread by identifying systematic problems as they develop, and before they explode into crisis. They haven't earned a crumb so far.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:15 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Economics is a social science requiring a good bit of mathematics. This does not make you a psychic.

A good model actually kindof *does* make you psychic in that it grants you some serious predictive power -- within the limits of the given model. The problem, I think, is that human nature and hubris being what it is, the power of a good model is so intoxicating that it's particularly easy to forget that it has limits and you might not even know what they are.

My own experience with Mathematics as a field is that it's fairly common for mathematicians to be more circumspect about what they know and the limits of various claims (sometimes very precisely and formally articulated limits). I don't think this has filtered out equally well into all the disciplines using the tools it provides.
posted by weston at 11:23 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


They're almost all lapdogs - pets kept by the rich and powerful.

I agree many are, but not quite all. Dean Baker stands out for me as a definite non-lapdog and good guy.
posted by gimonca at 11:42 AM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


These changes - are they for the better? Because I don't see many economic policies enacted in the past 30 years that have done good things for labor. Is it a better understanding of microeconomics? Then why have economists missed the tech bubble, the real estate bubble, the banking crisis, the commodities bubble and a jobless recovery, unless microeconomics is just more useless navelgazing?

Oh come on. Economists are supposed to be able to tell the future? People still die from cancer, so therefore no oncologist is doing anything worth a damn, right? I mean this is the basic reasoning you're putting forth.

The business cycle is one of the least well understood areas of all of economics. How many observations do we even have - like 10? And the further back you go, the worse the data quality gets. Throw into that that each of these business cycles is assumed to be like the other - yet perhaps they are driven by different factors. The cycles driven by monetary policy, such as the early 1980s recession. Does it have something to teach us about the ones driven by oil shocks? Does each of the ones involving overpriced assets actually bear as much in common as we think? People are still writing about the Great Depression now.

I don't know what to tell you man. The world is complicated, and if you can do better, then by all means do it. Krueger's work has been incredibly valuable. You're more than welcome to read all the papers and form your own opinion, but I'll take one example - that there are estimated returns to schooling even independent of unobserved ability. In my opinion, maybe no other work in economics bears repeating as often as that.
posted by scunning at 12:01 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Alan Krueger was Assistant Secretary for Economics at the US Treasury from 2009-2010 working for Tim Geithner (returning to Princeton to retain his tenure.) He also worked for the Clinton administration as Chief Economist for the Department of Labor.

Most importantly, Krueger is a close friend with Larry Summers. If you think his hiring is going to make a lick of difference from the status quo... well, it seems unlikely.
posted by fet at 12:01 PM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm sure I can hardly be the first person to have raised my hand and ask what the evidence is that people behave as rational actors. I'm still actually a little stunned by his response: "Well, what's the alternative? Having the government make our decisions for us?"

I'll give you one great example of neoclassical economics being vindicated by the data: the Giffen good and Robert Jensen's 2008 AER which finds evidence for it in tightly controlled field experimentation in Chinese villages for rice and wheat commodities. You can work out the comparative statics yourself, but the Giffen good is predicted by utility maximization from which we can generate the slutsky equation. The slutsky equation shows that the downward sloping demand function usually thought to be a universal truth is in fact a special case. It requires particular parameters to be met. They are met nearly all the time, but theoretically it's possible that demand could slope upward. And sure enough, Jensen found it occur in the "real world" when those conditions - prescribed by the math model mind you - are met, demand sloped upward.

My two cents.
posted by scunning at 12:05 PM on August 29, 2011 [4 favorites]




Another cynical move by the Obama administration. This is happening because Obama's weak leadership has alienated labor unions.

Every 4 years the GOP goes to the Christian right well for votes, and then turns its back on them - thus, the Tea Party.

Every 4 years the Democrats go to the labor well for votes, and then turns its back on them - thus, the labor revolt.

Both parties - including their splinter parties - are money dependent, and they both suck. the Tea Party is a joke. Now, we may see a splinter party come out of labor. Maybe not. Nevertheless, Obama has nobody but himself to blame for this. He over-promised in 2008, essentially lied about where he really sits in the political spectrum (he's a pure Centrist, moving slightly left and right of center, depending on the issue).

I would love to see a challenge to Obama by someone who can win it all - someone who is a Centrist who canlead. Someone who isn't afraid to say "let's get the money out of politics once and for all!", instead of just making noises in that direction, while he goes about raising a Billion dollars.

Who are those contributions coming from? They're coming from the same people that fund the GOP, largely - the same people who could give a rat's ass about America, and Americans.

Maybe Obama will negotiate a win in 2012 - who knows, but brining in a labor economist - no matter his leaning - is not going to help that much. People are tired of token politics; they want politicians who are not bought and paid for.

Obama, Perry, Romney, Bachmann, Gingrich, Paul, etc. - they're all cut from the same cloth. They jack everyone up with fear every four years and them go about screwing us over.

Labor economist? How about some real leadership? How about using the first two years to get the money out of politics, when you had the votes, Barack. Hypocrite!
posted by Vibrissae at 12:40 PM on August 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oh come on. Economists are supposed to be able to tell the future? People still die from cancer, so therefore no oncologist is doing anything worth a damn, right? I mean this is the basic reasoning you're putting forth.

No -- he was just pointing out that economics, unlike oncology, is based on wildly inaccurate assumptions about human nature.

Krueger's work has been incredibly valuable. You're more than welcome to read all the papers and form your own opinion, but I'll take one example - that there are estimated returns to schooling even independent of unobserved ability. In my opinion, maybe no other work in economics bears repeating as often as that.

Interesting you should take that example, as the record of uncritical education-worship in labor economics is getting pretty embarassing. The insistence by economists that massive increases in income inequality are due mainly to "skill biased technological change" -- in other words, that all our inequality problems would be solved if everyone just went to college -- feels pretty naive today, doesn't it?

It is a good example though because it shows up the limitations of even good empirical economics. The basic idea that "there are estimated returns to schooling even independent of unobserved ability" is so obvious and common-sensical that your mother probably informed you of it right around the time you first whined about having to go to first grade. (Although she probably phrased it differently). It would be useful to measure the size of those returns in some kind of precise and generalizable way, to figure out the different returns for different levels of schooling, and to separate the return due to signaling from the return due to pure schooling (note that signaling theories will also generate a schooling return independent of unobserved ability). But how much closer are we to that today than we were 20 years ago when labor economists first tackled the question? Much of the best early IV-based metrics were discredited. Careful, micro-level randomized experiments in developing countries and also here give some useful local information...but it's really not very generalizable. And when you think about it, it wouldn't be, since the "return" is bound to be heavily dependent on the detailed structure of labor market institutions and the nature of education.

I like economists best when they just go out and measure stuff in a straightforward, comprehensible way. Usually when that it done it disproves some shibboleth of economic theory. Card and Krueger's early work on minimum wages is still a landmark in that kind of research.
posted by zipadee at 12:50 PM on August 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh, and also, White House economic policy usually originates with the National Economic Council, or sometimes with the political people or Treasury...I think it's pretty rare that it originates with the CEA.
posted by zipadee at 12:51 PM on August 29, 2011


that there are estimated returns to schooling even independent of unobserved ability. In my opinion, maybe no other work in economics bears repeating as often as that.

This is called Social Returns on Investment. And, it's not such a great insight, when one takes the time to consider the multiplier effects of an educated person in the labor markets, and other segments of culture. These insights have preceded Kreuger's work. Most of the people who have been talking about this are outside the mainstream - i.e. the politically connected large foundations, universities, etc. Now we see a Harvard economist writing papers about it and all of a sudden its news?
posted by Vibrissae at 1:00 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


. He over-promised in 2008, essentially lied about where he really sits in the political spectrum (he's a pure Centrist, moving slightly left and right of center, depending on the issue).

Obama's campaign in 2008 gave a fairly clear picture of what his policies would turn out to be; he was always more conservative than his primary opponents on most economic issues. He chose Austan Goolsbee as an economic adviser right from the start. His proposed health care plan was far to the right of Hillary's. Unions mostly preferred Hillary and Edwards to him. Look back to pretty much any Krugman column from 2007 or 2008. "[Obama] has not [received much union support] — in part, perhaps, because his message of 'a new kind of politics' that will transcend bitter partisanship doesn’t make much sense to union leaders who know, from the experience of confronting corporations and their political allies head on, that partisanship isn’t going away anytime soon." And, "[H]is stimulus proposal is similar to those of the other Democratic candidates, but tilted to the right...I know that Mr. Obama’s supporters hate to hear this, but he really is less progressive than his rivals on matters of domestic policy."
posted by Ralston McTodd at 1:41 PM on August 29, 2011




I believe that when Paul Krugman, Greg Mankiw, and Tyler Cowen agree about something, it's very likely to be true. So, good news.
posted by Perplexity at 2:20 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


No -- he was just pointing out that economics, unlike oncology, is based on wildly inaccurate assumptions about human nature.

The original quote was "Because I don't see many economic policies enacted in the past 30 years that have done good things for labor. Is it a better understanding of microeconomics? Then why have economists missed the tech bubble, the real estate bubble, the banking crisis, the commodities bubble and a jobless recovery, unless microeconomics is just more useless navelgazing?" Nowhere does the author reference "wildly inaccurate assumptions about human nature". Seems like my oncology/cancer comparison fits.

Also just to state the obvious, but how does anyone know that the social value of these studies are worthless? Doesn't this require knowing the counterfactual? Maybe we would've had 5 more recessions of this severity if not for all the work by economists in the last century. Or maybe we would have had 5 fewer. No one will ever have to experience the counterfactual timeline where economics as a science doesn't exist, and yet you seem able to make the comparison. I guess it's just common sense?

Interesting you should take that example, as the record of uncritical education-worship in labor economics is getting pretty embarassing. The insistence by economists that massive increases in income inequality are due mainly to "skill biased technological change" -- in other words, that all our inequality problems would be solved if everyone just went to college -- feels pretty naive today, doesn't it?

Citation? Who in the world is saying that "all our inequality problems would be solved if everyone just went to college"? Labor economists after all have study everything conceivably related to the wage structure: education, the family, crime, discrimination, etc.

It is a good example though because it shows up the limitations of even good empirical economics. The basic idea that "there are estimated returns to schooling even independent of unobserved ability" is so obvious and common-sensical that your mother probably informed you of it right around the time you first whined about having to go to first grade.

First, is the elasticity of wages with respect to schooling common sense too? And what does common sense tell you the return is - 5%, 8%, 13%, 50%? But secondly, education is endogenous. You don't have to travel very far at all to find people who claim all racial differences in performance are due to genetics. The ongoing work by people like Fryer and Heckman examining on early childhood ability and the returns to education - this is common sense too? No need to even look at this? I don't know what to say, except that it sounds like you don't have a high view of careful empirical work - so not surprisingly, you don't appreciate those who have devoted their entire careers to it. I can't argue with preferences, though. Education is absolutely key to increasing the quality of life here in the US. I'm not sure what you're gaining by saying it's basically a waste of time to study this carefully.

It would be useful to measure the size of those returns in some kind of precise and generalizable way, to figure out the different returns for different levels of schooling, and to separate the return due to signaling from the return due to pure schooling (note that signaling theories will also generate a schooling return independent of unobserved ability). But how much closer are we to that today than we were 20 years ago when labor economists first tackled the question? Much of the best early IV-based metrics were discredited. Careful, micro-level randomized experiments in developing countries and also here give some useful local information...but it's really not very generalizable. And when you think about it, it wouldn't be, since the "return" is bound to be heavily dependent on the detailed structure of labor market institutions and the nature of education.

What kind of evidence are you thinking of that manages to have both internal and external validity? Sure, the study is going to be "heavily dependent" on all that stuff - it's going to be dependent on every single feature of the experiment itself.

I like economists best when they just go out and measure stuff in a straightforward, comprehensible way. Usually when that it done it disproves some shibboleth of economic theory. Card and Krueger's early work on minimum wages is still a landmark in that kind of research.

As far as I can tell from your post, you call it "commonsense" if you agree with it and "shibboleth" if you don't. I otherwise cannot understand why you seem to have such a low opinion of Krueger's work on education but such a high opinion of his work on minimum wage restrictions when the same methods are used to learn about each.
posted by scunning at 2:23 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


> Obama's campaign in 2008 gave a fairly clear picture of what his policies would turn out to be;

Bull's eye. I expected Mr. Obama to turn out to be business as usual, Chicago-Democrat flavor, and have not been disappointed. I voted for him because he was a black guy who looked like he actually might be able to win, and because he was Not A Republican, Not George Bush, and Not From Texas (so I could stand to hear him speak--I can't make myself listen to either Bush or LBJ.) Obama scored 100% on those four in 2008 and still does, and I expect to vote for him again for all the same reasons. It's amusing to go back now and read the 2008 rants from people who mistook him for Jesus II, and the equal but opposite rants from the same crowd who have by now figured out that he isn't.
posted by jfuller at 4:18 PM on August 29, 2011


I can't see how organized labor can criticize Obama much.

He has done everything in his power for his main labor constituency -- government employees. The 2009 stimulus was, more than anything else, a big one-time transfer of state and local payroll costs, that couldn't be supported from state and local tax collections, to the federal government, which could simply increase the deficit to pay the cost. He has co-opted school reformers into a series of educational policies that have left the power of teacher unions entirely intact in reality, even if some of the rhetoric might hint otherwise.

Private sector unions are pretty hard to help, but where he can, he has. The UAW did far better out of the GM and Chrysler rescues than they would have had in a straightforward Chapter 11, or in a rescue superintended by a Republican President. There was never the support in Congress needed to move forward the signature private-sector labor legislation like card-check, but Obama's NLRB is engaging in a series of quiet (and not-so-quiet) moves to expand the remit of existing labor law significantly beyond where it had been thought to run.
posted by MattD at 4:24 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I should probably stay out of a high level conversation on economics, as an uneducated humble blue collar tweeker, but too many people can't do work that makes them feel useful, and enables them to have some seblance of a life, and a vague hope of non lethal retirement, when competing on an international scale. Malwart will be the only winner as everyone fights for the bottom. My foggy interpretation is any economic theory that works will need to be intended to help the species, rather than some country. I (and many in my expendable trajectory) are basically being forced to shop at massive intercontinental harbingers of evil because it's all we can afford. And it's all we can afford because of trickle-up decay from accepting crappy merchandise because we can save some money, since it was made by either automated machinery or 3rd world slave labor. I sit here looking at my floppy ripped up shoes, and raggedy clothes because it was cheap and I am broke, and...
... well, my own pittard is a damn painful thing to have twisting in my guts. Isolationism? Self-sufficient communes? Mad Max-type post apocalyptic roving gangs? Soylent green? Endless wars till the planet is a radioactive cinder? Let me know when Economics has some practical solutions. We need solutions that begin and end with humanity, with numbers and probability in the middle
posted by Redhush at 4:32 PM on August 29, 2011


I believe that when Paul Krugman, Greg Mankiw, and Tyler Cowen agree about something, it's very likely to be true. So, good news.

If Krugman, Mankiw, and Cowen agree that someone is a good appointment, that probably means that they disagree on what he'll do in the job.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 4:49 PM on August 29, 2011


"I believe that when Paul Krugman, Greg Mankiw, and Tyler Cowen agree about something, it's very likely to be true. So, good news."

They all supported another Princeton economist -Bernanke- and he's been woefully inadequate.

Something's more likely to be good news if Cowen and Mankiw are against it and Krugman doesn't agree.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 4:50 PM on August 29, 2011


"It's amusing to go back now and read the 2008 rants from people who mistook him for Jesus II"

It's amusing to see alleged Democrats using right wing frames. On matters economic, Obama didn't run on cutting social security and pursuing Herbert Hoover's approach to managing a recession.

I tend not to believe anyone claiming to have known in '08 that Obama was going to chart a course for losing the '12 election with right wing economic policies.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 4:56 PM on August 29, 2011


Obama's latest plan of the week to fix the economy: let people refinance mortgages at today's rates regardless of whether they have equity or are in default. Can't make this stuff up. A three year old plan by Republican economists is what qualifies as bold thinking on the economy from the Obama administration. Hard to imagine one more Larry Summer's buttbuddy holdover from the Clinton administration is going to change the prevailing thinking.
posted by T.D. Strange at 5:24 PM on August 29, 2011



Obama's campaign in 2008 gave a fairly clear picture of what his policies would turn out to be;


You can't be serious. Obama's campaign created an image of him that was far more left-liberal than Hillary Clinton. The news media absolutely refused to pick up on the fact - pointed out by many who were outside the mainstream - that Obama's advisers were holdovers from the Bill Clinton era. Obama was a "left Liberal Jesus" who was going to "save" the liberal progressive cause. Obama even got away with answering televised debate questions about whether he thought Bill Clinton was a "brother" or not by retorting that he didn't know because he hadn't seen him dance. Seriously. the press let this yahoo get away with the biggest political lie since Bush talked everyone into Iraq.

Obama promised at his inauguration that he was going to guarantee that the oceans don't rise (and here he is supporting one of the dirtiest efforts yet suggested - the pipeline from Alberta that will run over the largest aquifer in the midwest. Obama has a real chance; he could have made a difference; instead, he has kept things pretty much the same. Fail!

Both parties suck, and there is no candidate for either party who is anything close to a leader. That worries me because the more things remain the same, the more faux-leaders we get - making outsized liberal-sounding promises to get a vote, like Obama; or, playing on fear like the Tea Party nutcases.
posted by Vibrissae at 5:48 PM on August 29, 2011


You can't be serious. Obama's campaign created an image of him that was far more left-liberal than Hillary Clinton.

On foreign policy, yes. But anyone who had economic issues as a top priority knew that he was consistently more conservative in that area (except maybe on that harebrained "gas tax holiday" that Hillary proposed.) The unions were paying attention, and they went for Hillary and Edwards. Krugman was paying attention too. The media did do a terrible job, but Obama spent a lot of time talking about bipartisanship and market solutions and a new tone in Washington, and they largely reported that faithfully. Obama's right-leaning economic ideas were raised repeatedly in 2008, and as far as I could tell, the only response from progressives who wanted to vote for him anyway was "But Hillary voted for the war!"
posted by Ralston McTodd at 6:08 PM on August 29, 2011


Hi Ralston -

Maybe Obama's econ record accords with your expectations. But perhaps you'll agree that the following has been more right wing than many might've reasonably anticipated:

* Two non-Democrats appted into the top 2 econ posts - Fed chair + Treas. Sec.

* Hooverism, i.e. deficit reduction comprised mostly of spending cuts (including entitlement cuts), as the top econ. priority for @two yrs. prior to any significant recovery.

* An eventual jobs agenda that is entirely comprised of small-time, right wing proposals - patent reform, 'free' trade deals, and tax cuts to employers.

I think the Democratic base has a right to feel burned.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 6:33 PM on August 29, 2011


Hard to imagine one more Larry Summer's buttbuddy holdover

Buttbuddy? That seems pointlessly homophobic.

Obama promised at his inauguration that he was going to guarantee that the oceans don't rise

what? If you didn't know he was a centrist from his inaugural address or indeed his debates then you simply weren't paying attention. I chose him as my favored candidate back in August 2007 or so, because he was willing to put his cards on the table about carrying out attacks on Al Qaeda within Pakistan if necessary, and because of his commitment to a technocratic economic approach. Obama has governed pretty much as I expected.

Please refer to the speech you cited and tell me where he is claiming that he's going to halt climate change.


Hooverism, i.e. deficit reduction comprised mostly of spending cuts (including entitlement cuts), as the top econ. priority for @two yrs. prior to any significant recovery.

An eventual jobs agenda that is entirely comprised of small-time, right wing proposals - patent reform, 'free' trade deals, and tax cuts to employers.


Sorry, what about the stimulus, bailouts of the automakers, cash for clunkers, and cuts in the payroll tax? While I do not think the administration has brought about an economic miracle by any means, it seems to have escaped your attention that Europe is having quite similar economic problems to the US notwithstanding the major differences between countries over there and states over here. If there were an easy foolproof solution I'm inclined to think that the administration would have taken it, because politicians would like to be re-elected, as would the parties they are members of.

Sure, Obama could work on being more like FDR. Because everyone knows that FDR had the great Depression licked within his first term, and had the US back at full employment within months of taking office. And everyone knows that our current economic system is just like that of the late 1920s/early 1930s, when everyone had credit cards and a 100% pension and cradle-to-grave medical coverage.So all Obama has to do is chant the phrase 'works progress administration' in a suitably reverential tone, make a ceremonial threat to pack the court, and the good times would just roll.
posted by anigbrowl at 6:51 PM on August 29, 2011


Sorry, what about the stimulus, bailouts of the automakers, cash for clunkers, and cuts in the payroll tax?

My comment addressed econ policy w/in the past @ 2 yrs. and your programs predate that, except for the payroll tax cut. The employee-side payroll *tax cut* let us say is centrist, and it was also small. Now the proposal is for an employer-based payroll tax cut. That's a right wing proposal.

I agree that Obama wasn't implementing right wing policy from the get-go, but the shift to a discretionary spending freeze in early '10 marks the beginning of a right wing agenda by my accounting.

Not sure what your point is about Europe. Their right has been mismanaging their situation for years, yet it doesn't look too different from the Obama admin's approach.

As for your remarks about FDR, they're intended to be dispiriting in the sense of lowering people's expectations about the role of government. What I find dispiriting is that you don't apparently don't know that there were millions more employed by the end of FDR's first term than at the beginning. The unemployment rate was 10% lower in '36 vs. '32.

Obama was still over 7 million jobs in the hole when he decided he should pursue Hooverism and wait for the economy to heal itself.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 7:19 PM on August 29, 2011


Maybe Obama's econ record accords with your expectations. But perhaps you'll agree that the following has been more right wing than many might've reasonably anticipated:

I agree that these policies are certainly more right-wing than one might hope, given that candidates in a national election often try to sound more centrist than they are, and it was reasonable to assume that Obama was doing that with his campaign rhetoric.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 7:21 PM on August 29, 2011


Also, I've always kind of hoped that the right would do this in reverse -- nominate a candidate whose unimpeachably conservative religious credentials and life story make them overlook obvious pro-worker policy leanings. (I thought this candidate might be Huckabee until he started making noises about a flat tax.)
posted by Ralston McTodd at 7:28 PM on August 29, 2011


Not sure what your point is about Europe. Their right has been mismanaging their situation for years, yet it doesn't look too different from the Obama admin's approach.

I'm European myself. It's not like they've dismantled the welfare state or abolished public healthcare or adopted laissez-faire economics since I left, or else my family members and various European newspapers have been working hard to pretend those things still exist.

As for your remarks about FDR, they're intended to be dispiriting in the sense of lowering people's expectations about the role of government. What I find dispiriting is that you don't apparently don't know that there were millions more employed by the end of FDR's first term than at the beginning. The unemployment rate was 10% lower in '36 vs. '32.

That's debatable, to say the least.

Personally, I find inflated and unrealistic expectations dispiriting, not realistic ones. If you go back and reread the inauguration speech linked to above, you'll notice that Obama repeatedly emphasizes the length and difficulty of the challenges that lie ahead. I personally think this is because he recognizes that the US has some genuine economic problems that are structural in nature and not susceptible to simplistic left-right framing.
posted by anigbrowl at 7:33 PM on August 29, 2011


I guess I would make a distinction between e.g., not getting as progressive a health care bill as might've been hoped for, yet still getting one that expands medicaid, and makes significant progress towards universal coverage.

That's not being as progressive as one might like.

But that's different than the pursuit of Hooverism w. 25 million under and unemployed, cuts to social security, etc.

Those are flat out right wing disasters, and being sucked in by campaign rhetoric isn't the only explanation for the expectation that they'd be avoided.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 7:34 PM on August 29, 2011


Please refer to the speech you cited and tell me where he is claiming that he's going to halt climate change.

promises, promises ( I pointed at the exact time in the video; if you want to hear more of Obama's hypnotic (at the time) hyperbole, listen to the whole thing).

what? If you didn't know he was a centrist from his inaugural address or indeed his debates then you simply weren't paying attention. I chose him as my favored candidate back in August 2007 or so, because he was willing to put his cards on the table about carrying out attacks on Al Qaeda within Pakistan if necessary, and because of his commitment to a technocratic economic approach. Obama has governed pretty much as I expected.

Please, spare us the apologies for Obama. I'm a centrist, and so is Obama. I was favoring the other candidate, because she put her cards on the table during the campaign. Everyone knew where Hillary stood, but the fawning media would have none of it; they wanted Obama; they got him. And yes, Hillary would have run things about the same way as Obama, minus throwing labor and health care under the bus - and a few other things.

During the campaign, which is where Obama convinced people to put enough votes down to that he could make that Inaugural Address, Obama blatantly misled millions of people - and so did his campaign. They played on themselves being the antidote for the last 8 years of Bush idiocy. They played the American people in a way that created huge expectations, and created hope. They lied, period. And, as a result, they helped crush hope.

In the offing, they kept the real evil - forget about Bush, he was a pawn - alive; the bastards that run the insurance companies; the insane, criminal financiers; environmental pollutuers and outright liars (e.g. Exelon), and on and on.

Sure, Obama is better than McCain, but he and his campaign played on hope; they passively participated in helping the media - with NOW and other groups supporting - use Hillary's gender as the butt of jokes.

Then, Obama gets to his inaugural address and starts to back off - and little by little - voila! - he showed what he's always been, a centrist politician - and then proceeds to gut almost every one of his campaign promises.

Seriously, Obama is a soul-sucking politician; in many ways, just as soul-sucking as Bush. At least with Bush we knew we were getting idiocy, but with Obama? Now we know, and unfortunately there seems no candidate on the near horizon to challenge him. If he's the candidate in 2012, I will protest by writing someone in.

Obama did the same thing with "hope" that George Bush did with "fear". He took an emotion that could have been used for good and sucked on it until it was gone. I can't think of a more poor excuse for a leader, relative to the hype and promise that he and his campaign fomented, knowing all the while that they were telling their story, that most of it was BS. They wanted the office; they wanted power; they took the money. And, here we are.
posted by Vibrissae at 7:45 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


You seem to think that unemployment is a policy choice. Please tell us, if you think it can be cured with a WPA 2.0, how much this would cost and what it would pay to the recipients. Last time I looked, incoming Presidents did not have the option of just resetting the economic indicators back to 'ideal starting conditions' when they entered office. For that matter, Obama had considerably less of an electoral mandate than FDR, or the same kind of Congressional backing either.

The social security issue is a real one, caused by demographics. There are, simply put, fewer workers per retiree than there used to be. Again, this same problem exists in Europe, Japan, and even China to some extent. It's a temporary problem, as the demographics will even out in another generations - basically, after the baby boomers have died. But the demographic shift is a fact, and any politician tht tells you it isn't is bullshitting you.
posted by anigbrowl at 7:47 PM on August 29, 2011


"That's debatable, to say the least"

The only directly relevant part of your cite that I saw was a table that had two alternate measures of unemployment for '32 vs. '36. The first had a decrease of nearly 7%; the second had a decrease of 13%. Feel free to quote anything else you feel is relevant.

I'm afraid I still don't grasp your point about Europe.

One of my takeaways from European instability is that it was silly for the Obama admin., lead apparently by Geithner, to expect that the US economy would be immune from external shocks and do nothing but propose spending cuts for @2 yrs.

As for the economy's structural problems, there is no evidence that unemployment is 'structural'. if that were the case we'd expect to see certain sectors of the economy with higher employment rates than others. Instead, unemployment is pretty stable across the board, which speaks to a general lack of demand. Which is likely due to the collapse of the 8 trillion housing bubble.

Government investment of infrastructure is a classic response embraced by almost every economist who leans anywhere left of center. Hooverism as an approach to these problems is embraced only by the right wing.

I think that depressing everyone's expectations is probably the best Obama apologists can do at this point. Of course they can't explain why obama is pursuing right wing economic policy that is likely to actively *harm* the economy, but apparently you go into elections with the right wing-friendly President you have.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 7:48 PM on August 29, 2011


"Also, I've always kind of hoped that the right would do this in reverse -- nominate a candidate whose unimpeachably conservative religious credentials and life story make them overlook obvious pro-worker policy leanings."

My impression is that both parties' candidates run to the left of where they govern.

With GWBush there was compassionate conservatism. Then he governed way to the right. Similar story with Obama.

There's probably a reason for that which runs contrary to your hope.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 7:51 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


"the demographic shift is a fact, and any politician tht tells you it isn't is bullshitting you."

Any politician telling you the SS trustees didn't take this into account and build up a surplus which has SS fully funded for 25 yrs. going forward and capable of making 80% of scheduled payments thereafter is bullshitting you.

Cf. the '83 Greenspan commission.

SS is literally the least of our problems. Any politician saying they want to 'save' or 'modify' SS wants to steal from SS's trust fund. Unfortunately that includes Obama who is proposing significant cuts in the name of today's deficit reduction.

There's no other name for that than right wing.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 7:55 PM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


promises, promises ( I pointed at the exact time in the video; if you want to hear more of Obama's hypnotic (at the time) hyperbole, listen to the whole thing).

That seems to be his acceptance of the nomination, not his inauguration. If you are going to argue, then please get your facts straight. In any case, the administration has had an excellent record on raising environmental standards. There's a reason that the GOP is on fire to shut the EPA down; it's pushing the toughest CAFE standards in history.

Please, spare us the apologies for Obama. I'm a centrist, and so is Obama. I was favoring the other candidate, because she put her cards on the table during the campaign. Everyone knew where Hillary stood, but the fawning media would have none of it; they wanted Obama; they got him. And yes, Hillary would have run things about the same way as Obama, minus throwing labor and health care under the bus - and a few other things.

It sounds like you never got over the primaries, emotionally or rhetorically. I see no point in attempting to have a serious discussion with you, and apologize for wasting your time.
posted by anigbrowl at 7:56 PM on August 29, 2011


Any politician telling you the SS trustees didn't take this into account and build up a surplus which has SS fully funded for 25 yrs. going forward and capable of making 80% of scheduled payments thereafter is bullshitting you.

Making 80% of your payments is the same as being 20% short. The costs of SS and medicare are set to balloon as a fraction of GDP and denying this is to deny reality. demographics are not left or right wing. They're just a fact, and one that is not confined to the US. You can sit there saying 'it's right wing' until you're blue in the face, but the rising ratio of retirees to workers is not going away until the demographic bulge does. Math doesn't vote Democratic or Republican.
posted by anigbrowl at 8:04 PM on August 29, 2011


anigbrowl, your knowledge of the figures does not begin to warrant lectures as to how math doesn't take sides.

The demographics as I said have been accounted for, for 25 yrs. going forward. Yet the cuts being proposed by the Obama admin. start *today* and are sold as addressing *today's* deficit problem.

They Obama proposals cut retiree benefits from now until scheduled payment decreases. But they don't avoid those decreases, they make those payments *smaller* at that time. Read anything at CEPR or EPI on this.

SS's problems in 25 yrs. such as they are could be solved with a similar commission that made similar changes to the one headed by Greenspan in '83. And that commission could convene in 20 yrs. time. There's no reason whatsoever to be falling for the ruse that there's some demographic 'crisis' that requires cutting SS today.

You're not pushing math, you're falling for a right wing frame.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 8:30 PM on August 29, 2011


anigbrowl, your knowledge of the figures does not begin to warrant lectures as to how math doesn't take sides. The demographics as I said have been accounted for, for 25 yrs. going forward. Yet the cuts being proposed by the Obama admin. start *today* and are sold as addressing *today's* deficit problem.

That's because boomers are retiring now.

SS's problems in 25 yrs. such as they are could be solved with a similar commission that made similar changes to the one headed by Greenspan in '83. And that commission could convene in 20 yrs. time. There's no reason whatsoever to be falling for the ruse that there's some demographic 'crisis' that requires cutting SS today.

Oh sure. Forward planning? Who needs it, let's just deal with everything at the last possible moment when the problem has become acute. We just need someone like Alan Greenspan, that well-known financial genius who has never screwed anything up, and we need to postpone dealing with the problem until the crisis has already arrived, because then we can conduct the whole thing like a hostage negotiation and have a collective adrenalin rush.

You're not pushing math, you're falling for a right wing frame.

Yes, yes, so you keep saying. The exact same problems in Europe and Japan - right wing lies, probably cooked up in some GOP think tank. After all, there's no possibility I could have sat down and looked at the budget numbers myself, is there?
posted by anigbrowl at 8:43 PM on August 29, 2011


I don't think you've looked at the SS #s in any detail at all, actually. You write as if you're the only one who's thought of the boomers retiring.

You write as if there isn't trillion+ of advanced-planning surplus in the SS trust fund dedicated solely to accounting for these demos, and which fully funds SS for two and one half decades going forward. The boomers, btw, are starting to retire this year and will be done retiring 7 yrs. before SS's shortfalls are scheduled to begin. How do you suppose that happened?

A commission convening 5 yrs. prior to scheduled payment cuts in 2036 that raises the payroll cap for over 106k and other adjustments is 10x more responsible than raiding the SS trust fund today. Which, by the way, is being sold with precisely the same scare tactics you purport to decry. Has Obama ever said 'SS is fully funded for 25 yrs. into the future?' Of course not.

Every major think tank that leans left - CEPR, EPI, Thinkprogress, has been trying to educate the populace on this issue since Bush proposed his partial privatization in '05. Cuts to SS are plausibly *the* defining economic issue between those who do and don't buy into a frame advocated by the right.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 9:24 PM on August 29, 2011


It sounds like you never got over the primaries, emotionally or rhetorically. I see no point in attempting to have a serious discussion with you, and apologize for wasting your time

Another Obama "true believer" (see Eric Hoffer). The minute anyone comes in to challenge Obama's BS and broken promises, the discussion is "over" - it appears that so many are still feeling the residual effects of the "YES WE CAN" KoolAid. The only people shouting "yes we can" these days are bankers and insurance companies.

Obama has not been a nutcase right winger - not by any means, but he's not even come close to keeping *essential* campaign promises, including some that would have been a cinch to make happen.

Last, you mention Obama's work to improve CAFE standards? Give me a break!
posted by Vibrissae at 10:23 PM on August 29, 2011


Another right wing framing point - "The costs of SS and medicare are set to balloon as a fraction of GDP"

Lumping SS and medicare together under 'entitlements' and pretending they're both in crises phases is a canonical right wing framing of the issues. In fact, they're entirely distinct.

SS is funded by a dedicated tax and prohibited by law from contributing to the general deficit. It's entire projected shortfall over the next 80 yrs. is .7% of GDP and could be completely eradicated by raising the payroll cap to over 106k. No cuts are remotely necessary.

Medicare is entirely different on all counts and in fact mostly responsible for future general fund deficits b/c of exploding health care cost increases.

There is nothing in common between the problems or solutions for these separate programs. Anyone lumping them together and speaking of a common demographics crisis is ipso facto participating in a right wing frame.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 10:27 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


anl, you accuse me of supporting reading the SS trust fund, instead of raising the payroll tax cap. Have I said this anywhere? No. I'm opposed to cutting SS, but I'm for raising the payroll tax cap and the retirement age, now.

Just because SS and medicare are funded differently, to ignore the fact that demographics is the key driver of both is just ridiculous. I have clearly distinguished between the two. Fuck your 'right wing frame.'

Vibrissae, all you ever post about is how pissed off you are with the establishment. You have some gall labeling me a true believer when you have obviously not recovered from your disappointment with the primaries. Three years, and you're still sulking.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:46 PM on August 29, 2011


anigbrowl - you're opposed to cutting SS, but support raising the retirement age.

Except that for each year the retirement age is raised, that effects a @7% cut on average per retiree.

More right wing nonsense.

Re: your 'key driver of both' framing - SS funding is on a fundamentally and vastly more sustainable trajectory than medicare. So there is no 'key driver of both'. Both what?
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 11:31 PM on August 29, 2011


Right wing my arse. It's called doing your part. Personally I hope I never have to retire, so I'll be helping to pay for your dishonest self until I pop my clogs. I've had it with this ignorantist bullshit.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:02 AM on August 30, 2011


all you ever post about is how pissed off you are with the establishment. You have some gall labeling me a true believer when you have obviously not recovered from your disappointment with the primaries. Three years, and you're still sulking

No, wait, that's three years and you're still hoping.

I had no illusions about Hillary; there were two imperfect candidates; I supported the one who told the truth about what she intended. You? So, bask in the glory of your "yes, we can", and make fun of my past support for Hillary, and antagonistic stance re: Obama if you will; characterize it in any way you want. Have fun.

The fact is that I'm right - just like you were wrong about the CAFE changes (above) and Obama's environmental record, including his recent support for the Alberta pipeline, just like you were wrong about the BS you washed down with Obama's KoolAid. And that's a damned shame, because Obama had everyone in his grasp; he had a moment, and he pissed it away - along with his cowardly Democratic Congress. That's why I'm an Independent now - along with a growing throng of others.

As for being pissed off with the establishment, why aren't you? Or, are you still drinking that spiked, "yes, we can" KoolAid.
posted by Vibrissae at 2:53 AM on August 30, 2011


I'm European myself. It's not like they've dismantled the welfare state or abolished public healthcare or adopted laissez-faire economics since I left, or else my family members and various European newspapers have been working hard to pretend those things still exist.

Well, I'm not European myself, but I've lived in Sweden now for almost 20 years and absolutely yes there has been a move to the right across the entire Swedish welfare state.

To combat long-term unemployment, the Swedish government is

"Reducing the duality of employment protection legislation would foster the inclusion of groups at the margin of the labour market and improving the wage bargaining framework would ease labour market adjustments. The efficiency of active labour market policies could be raised by increasing the use of training, targeting it towards those who need it the most, and improving cooperation between institutions. Further reforms of the social benefit and tax systems are needed to provide the right incentives for increasing hours worked."

In plainspeak, the government:

1. decided to successively REDUCE the about of welfare one receives over time as an incentive to get people to prefer work over welfare.

2. decided to not penalize people on the dole for earning extra money whilst on the dole.

3. made more money available for "study loans".

4. gave tax relief to companies that hire long term unemployed people.

5. cut taxes.

I might also add that in the past decade, Sweden has privatized her post offices, expanded the role of private healthcare, and generally moved away from some of the core left wing ideology and towards what works.

American liberals might take note of this.
posted by three blind mice at 3:58 AM on August 30, 2011


even though the group advises the White House, the position is subject to Senate approval, right?

Yes.
posted by valkyryn at 4:55 AM on August 30, 2011


tbm - My read of american liberals and progressives is that they're in general entirely open to finding the right public/private mix based on the examples of other countries.

If that's somewhere between the US and Sweden, fine. Re: health care, France seems to get the best outcomes with a public/private mix. But we also know that the UK, Canada, etc. have workable public systems that perform much better than the US's.

What there's no evidence for is that moving further rightward on many of these issues -- including health care and welfare -- from where the US is now is likely to be beneficial. And certainly Sweden of all places does not show that.
posted by airing nerdy laundry at 11:04 AM on August 30, 2011


No, wait, that's three years and you're still hoping.

Vibrissae, you seem to think I was swept up by enthusiasm for Obama. You are completely wrong about this; I supported Obama, and still do so, because the he's a pragmatic technocrat, not because he's an exciting orator or a post-partisan miracle worker. As I pointed out above, his stated willingness to do things like conduct drone strikes in Pakistan was a big part of this. Now, you don't agree with my politics and that's fine, but the idea that I expected a pony is just absurd. My entire point is that if you paid attention Obama's candidacy was firmly rooted in the proposition that nobody was getting a pony.

You're a rampant ideologue - which is your right. Your posts are peppered with loaded words, adjectives, and dog whistles - which is your right. I am not suggesting that you should change your views and embrace Obama or the Democratic party; indeed, I wish that you and your constituency would organize yourselves into some sort of coherent ideological bloc like the Tea Party in order to speed up the process of debate, rather than claiming to be a centrist when this is self-evidently not the case.

As for being pissed off with the establishment, why aren't you? Or, are you still drinking that spiked, "yes, we can" KoolAid.

Because I get on well with it, which is to say that I have more faith in institutional process than you do. I don't pay a great deal of attention to the what the newspaper, TV or blogs say about how the administration operates, but I pay a lot of attention to things like the Federal Register and the DoJ news to see what the government does on a day-to-day basis. I like the Obama administration despite a variety of shortcomings because on balance it seems to operate far more effectively than the previous one.

Put another way, I'm not one of you, I'm one of them.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:52 PM on August 30, 2011


Well, I'm not European myself, but I've lived in Sweden now for almost 20 years and absolutely yes there has been a move to the right across the entire Swedish welfare state. [..] I might also add that in the past decade, Sweden has privatized her post offices, expanded the role of private healthcare, and generally moved away from some of the core left wing ideology and towards what works.

No disagreement here. I see that as a process of refinement of the welfare state rather than dismantlement thereof. By 'welfare state' I mean one that provides sufficient welfare for the disadvantaged through institutional channels (rather than relying on private charity or family) rather than one with an ever-expanding public sector. I think it's important to have a mixed economy because too much state involvement in industry or services can easily end up institutionalizing unfairness without necessarily having an agenda of doing so.

I'm for public subsidy of healthcare and education because there are such clear economic benefits for the country as a whole to providing those things - just like there are such clear economic disadvantages to making trade-offs between health and economic security in a wholly privatized system. A pure market for healthcare can never clear properly because the timing of illness is unpredictable and it would be inefficient for every participant to have the equivalent of a nursing degree in order to accurately estimate present and future health requirements. Because demand for healthcare is so inelastic, facilitating access is a matter of economic security for the country as a whole - and the failure to build a good institutional infrastructure for this in the past is one of the biggest problems facing the US economy.

What I've been objecting to in this thread (and will now walk away from, which I should have done much earlier) is the idea that all policies can be reduced to some one-dimensional metric which only permits of movement in two opposite directions.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:12 PM on August 30, 2011


My entire point is that if you paid attention Obama's candidacy was firmly rooted in the proposition that nobody was getting a pony.

You are so far off the mark re: the reality of mass hysteria that accompanied Obama's candidacy - hysteria that Obama's candidacy, including Obama himself, embraced - that I don't even know where to begin. His candidacy - and his rhetoric - was like a balm to those who had suffered through the literal idiocy of the prior 8 years. Hell, he even won a Nobel prize *before* he accomplished anything! Well, he got elected, with the help of the Wall Street mavens and insurance mavens that he bailed out, and negotiated in secret with, respectively. We're experiencing the results of that reality, as we debate.

You're a rampant ideologue - which is your right. Your posts are peppered with loaded words, adjectives, and dog whistles - which is your right. I am not suggesting that you should change your views and embrace Obama or the Democratic party; indeed, I wish that you and your constituency would organize yourselves into some sort of coherent ideological bloc like the Tea Party in order to speed up the process of debate, rather than claiming to be a centrist when this is self-evidently not the case.

Nicely put for a passive-aggressive attack that uses the same techniques and demeanor that you accuse me of. But that's your right. That said, "me and my constituency" has already begun to organize a coherent ideological block - it's called "Independent", largely eschewing the paid for politics of the status quo, no matter the party. What's further amusing to me is that your use of a calculated attempt to define someone you're debating with via the quiet and rather effete (n my opinion) tactic of passive-aggressve put-down, in an transparent attempt to claim your kind of centrism as more authentic than mine, based only on the way you express it.

You call "demagogue"; I call "passive-aggressive". Further, I cop to using language that doesn't try to hide the outrage I feel. Why does that offend you? It doesn't appear to have offended you when your President was using the same techniques to shuck and jive his way into office, right?

We simply don't agree. And, btw, if you think that emotionally loaded rhetoric is demagoguery, check out our current President's M. O. That's what he's about. Why? because it works, especially when combined with stroking the hands that feed you, as Obama has done more often than even those who doubted his earlier promises thought he would.

I don't pay a great deal of attention to the what the newspaper, TV or blogs say about how the administration operates, but I pay a lot of attention to things like the Federal Register and the DoJ news to see what the government does on a day-to-day basis. I like the Obama administration despite a variety of shortcomings because on balance it seems to operate far more effectively than the previous one.

You mean the daily government reports that catalogue what our bought and paid for policy makers (most of them) are doing for their wealthy constituents? You mean reading that stuff (I read it, too) without the aid of the lens of monied influence that is largely responsible for creating it? The latter may sound like demagoguery to you, but it's far more at the root of the problems we face than trying to ferret out details and trends from the Federal Register and other government tomes that are nothing but a replay of the growing abuses that middle class and poor Americans have had heaped on them in ever increasing numbers, by both parties.

What I find interesting about our debate is that you're trying to make it sound like I don't think Obama has done any good. I haven't said that. I prefer what he has done to what McCain, for instance, would have done. What I'm trying to point out is how much opportunity for good he pissed away - through rank poor leadership, and getting bought off by special interests that surprised even those who are moderate centrists, like myself. I had a bad feeling about Obama as soon as I saw the contradictions between his outsized rhetoric, and who his central, core group of advisers were. Sure, we have it better than we would have under McCain, but Obama lost perhaps what was one of the greatest opportunities a President could have had - he had nearly a universal mandate AND a Congress on his side. I see what has happened since, relative to the advantage, as a tragedy! Obama has helped to gut hope. Don't believe me - look at the polls. That's not demagogeury; it's simple reportage. Believe it or not, I still have a little hope that Obama - if he wins again, and he can manage a majority (which isn't likely, based on his failure to deliver earlier) - could do a 180, but I doubt it.

We need a challenger to Obama - a centrist challenger that can speak to the hearts and minds of Americans, and who, once elected (and it will take money to get elected) will turn his or her back on the wealthy fucks who have had their way with this democracy for too long, and make bold moves to remove money from our policy making, forever. Until then, the charade of the GOP and Democrats will continue unabated, as America continues to fade, except for the wealthy who's capital rides the wire, free of national borders.
posted by Vibrissae at 2:20 PM on August 31, 2011


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