Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Obama Contradiction

That's the title of a nice essay by Peggy Noonan in today's WSJ that talks about Obama's State of the Union speech. I've pulled out the best parts here:

President Obama's speech was not a pivot, a lunge or a plunge. It was a little of this and a little of that, a groping toward a place where the president might successfully stand. Speeches are not magic, and this one did not rescue him from his political predicament, but it did allow him to live to fight another day.

The central fact of the speech was the contradiction at its heart. It repeatedly asserted that Washington is the answer to everything. At the same time it painted a picture of Washington as a sick and broken place. It was a speech that argued against itself: You need us to heal you. Don't trust us, we think of no one but ourselves.

Why would anyone have faith in that thing to help anyone do anything?

Why [she asked a friend] did the president not move decisively to the political center?

Because he is more "intellectually honest" than that, he said. "I don't think he can do a Bill Clinton pivot, because he's not a pragmatist, he's an ideologue. He's a community organizer. "

"I hope we have big changes in 2010," the friend said. Only significant loss will force the president to focus on spending. "To heal our country we need to get the arrogance out of the White House and the elitists out of the Congress. We need tough love. We need a real adult in the White House because we don't have adults in the Congress."


Colin said...

I also like George Will's take:

Obama's leitmotif is: Washington is disappointing, Washington is annoying, Washington is dysfunctional, Washington is corrupt, verily Washington is toxic -- yet Washington should conscript a substantially larger share of GDP, and Washington should exercise vast new controls over health care, energy, K-12 education, etc.

Scott Grannis said...

Excellent addition to this very important issue, thanks. Obama has very little chance of advancing his agenda, because the message is so inherently contradictory. Also, what he proposes (massive income redistribution) is antithetical to fundamental American values (hard work).

Paul said...


Sorry OT, but y'day I heard Rush discussing Arthur Laffer's belief that 2010 will be a better year than it fundamentally should be, resulting in a much weaker 2011. He believes the Bush tax cuts' expiration at the end of the year will cause demand and production to be shifted from the future into the present year. Any thoughts?

Scott Grannis said...

Laffer has made this point in advance of quite a few changes in tax rates, and he's almost always been right. It's a good bet that tax rates will be higher next year, so people will do everything possible to realize income and profits this year. That should result in a stronger-than-expected economy this year, while robbing growth from next year. Activity gets shifted forward in time to take advantage of today's more attractive tax rates. Imagine all the investors that will be realizing capgains this year to avoid next year's higher tax. Capgains receipts should greatly exceed projections this year.

Benjamin Cole said...

My complaint is that Obama, nor the Republicans, d point out the hugely federalized sectors of the economy that could easily be defederalized--like agriculture.
$60 billion a year in crop subsidies?
Surely, we can do away with that.
How about trade protection for US sugar producers?
The sugar protection costs consumers billions every year. Surely, we can finally end barriers to sugar imports.
Actually, it would probably take a Republican President to propose these changes, as they are Republican-party dominated subsidies. Much like only Nixon could go to China.
Bush could have proposed radical reforms and reductions in military outlays--but not Obama. He would get crucified as "weak."
The Bush-appointed Secy of Defense Gates has called our current military forces a relic of the Cold War. So has Pat Buchanan. There are hundreds of billions of savings to had there. (BTW, as any submariner how long surface ships would last in a real shooting war).

For some reason, no one is interested in really stripping federal agencies back to the meat and bones, including Agriculture and Defense.

I see no reason for a federal Department of Education. Maybe HUD's time is past too.

My complaint is that neither party is sunsetting federal departments.

The Red Ink Republicans say they will do a better job than the Deficit Democrats.

Recent history says? Well, not so far.