Posted by: Rick | Friday, July 3, 2009

Of Learning Curves And Legacies: Barack Obama Vs. The Senate

So now it’s official: the President’s stimulus package was too timid. We need to start creating a lot more jobs — and soon.

What’s to be done? Paul Krugman writes:

. . .[H]ave we failed to learn from history, and are we, therefore, doomed to repeat it? Not necessarily — but it’s up to the president and his economic team to ensure that things are different this time. President Obama and his officials need to ramp up their efforts, starting with a plan to make the stimulus bigger.

The mantra of the Obama Administration has been “We’ll do whatever it takes to get the economy moving.”  Yesterday’s horrible employment report gives them all the justification they need to go full steam ahead.  The task won’t be easy, but hasn’t Obama learned by now that Republicans are going to call him a “socialist” no matter what he does?  Ultimately, won’t he be putting himself in a stronger political position if he’s seen taking action on behalf the people rather cowering before his unpopular enemies?

For better or worse, presidents have legacies to cultivate. George W. Bush saw himself as the Great World Liberator. (That didn’t turn out very well, much to the world’s distress.)  Barack Obama clearly wants to be remembered as another FDR.  It might yet come to pass, but first he’ll have to acknowledge that other players have other motives.

Notwithstanding their windy rhetoric, the majority of United States Senators are little more than political hacks.  When one is put out to pasture, do we ever hear of  him again.  Their “legacies” exist in the “eternal present” of their all-consuming careers, as they ceaselessly scheme for re-election whilst enjoying the perks of membership in that mutual admiration society once termed (by one of its own, no doubt) “The World’s Greatest Deliberative Body.” Max Baucus and Dianne Feinstein receive their psychic rewards every day in the tawdry confines of a Senate cloakroom.   Considerations of what’s best for the public are — at best –secondary factors in their political calculus.

When the stakes are high, the president needs to take charge — not, obviously in a “Cheney-esque” sense, but legally, by using every means of political power at his disposal.  The president is the elected official most institutionally capable of seeing the big picture and acting responsibly.  The others are reluctant to serve anyone but themselves.



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