President Obama is not a fool. He is a Harvard educated professor who usually sounds quite reasonable. But everyone has a blind spot. And his blind spot is bipartisanship.
I sensed all along that there was something inherently wrong about the way the president insists on meeting “the other side” half way, but it took Nobel laureate Paul Krugman to focus my feeling. Krugman was talking about the dumb way media pundits discuss political disagreements, but I think his remarks are just as applicable to the president’s bipartisanship.
Here’s an excerpt from Krugman’s recent New York Times column:
Think about what’s happening right now. We have a crisis in which the right is making insane demands, while the president and Democrats in Congress are bending over backward to be accommodating — offering plans that are all spending cuts and no taxes, plans that are far to the right of public opinion.
So what do most news reports say? They portray it as a situation in which both sides are equally partisan, equally intransigent — because news reports always do that. And we have influential pundits calling out for a new centrist party, a new centrist president, to get us away from the evils of partisanship.
The reality, of course, is that we already have a centrist president — actually a moderate conservative president. Once again, health reform — his only major change to government — was modeled on Republican plans, indeed plans coming from the Heritage Foundation. And everything else — including the wrongheaded emphasis on austerity in the face of high unemployment — is according to the conservative playbook.
If you say that 2 plus 2 equal 4, and “the other side” insists that 2 plus 2 equal 6, it does not make sense to “compromise” and agree that 2 plus 2 equal 5. Does it?
There is no compromise between the right answer to the nation’s problems and the wrong answer.
It is a fact that cutting taxes for the rich does not create jobs. There is ample empirical evidence to support that conclusion.
Yet the president allowed Republicans and “moderate” Democrats to talk him into devoting a huge chunk of the stimulus package to tax cuts. That left far too little actual stimulus to build roads and repair bridges, activities that would have created jobs.
Then in a “bipartisan” deal to get help for the unemployed, the president agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts, even though he had promised in his campaign to let the cuts expire for couples making more than $250,000.
Now, with America’s economic recovery virtually stalled, he has yielded to conservative demands for austerity policies that will inevitably impede future job growth.
It is a mathematical fact that the more people who are out of work the less revenue the government will collect in taxes. And the less income seniors have the less consumer spending there will be. So when you implement policies that cause higher unemployment and cut back “government spending” on programs like Social Security, the inevitable result will be a weaker economy.
(And cutting back “government spending” on Social Security would be theft. The recipients earned that income by contributing to the Social Security fund throughout their working lives. The contributions from workers and their employers were invested in government bonds, and it is this obligation that forms a large part of the national debt that conservatives like to yell about.)
There is no bipartisan solution to the nation’s economic woes. The right solution – the one that will produce results – is to stimulate the economy now, especially by addressing infrastructure needs, revise the tax code to eliminate loopholes and subsidies that make the rich richer and the poor poorer, and start backing away from trade policies that have proven disastrous.
Sadly, there seems to be no chance of this happening.