POLITICAL observations & opinions

* Obama’s path of compromise … there’s no other way

Posted by Lew Weinstein on July 22, 2009

THE ECONOMIST reports (7/4/09) …

  • Having campaigned in poetry, Barack Obama doubtless expected to govern in prose. But it is arithmetic that threatens to cramp his ambitions.
  • Last week, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its long-term budget outlook. If current policies are continued, federal debt held by the public will rise from 41% of GDP at the end of 2008 to 87% by 2020, and (theoretically) to a staggering 716% by 2080.
  • A president who refused to put off unpleasant decisions, as Mr Obama promised during his inauguration, would be honest about all this.
  • Instead of straight talk, however, Mr Obama has mostly been offering happy talk.
  • … rather than shaping public opinion, he is running scared of it. And so, even more, is Congress.
  • The House’s climate bill is a masterpiece of obfuscation.
  • Mr Obama wanted the (carbon emission) permits to be auctioned, which would raise large sums (which were meant to help finance health-care reform) and allocate the permits to the firms that value them most. Instead, the House decided to give away 85% of them free to politically-favoured entities.
  • Some say this was necessary—the bill only passed by a whisker, 219 votes to 212, and would probably have failed without the giveaways.
  • Mr Obama needs to find at least $1 trillion to overhaul health care, and those plans now face an uphill battle of their own in the Senate, which looks set for a long hard summer.
  • Mr Obama promised, on the campaign trail, not to tax private health benefits. He also promised to cut taxes for all but the rich. Arithmetic suggests he will have to break his word on something.

Read the entire article at … http://www.economist.com/world/unitedstates/displaystory.cfm?story_id=13952934


The Economist has framed Obama’s dilemma well, although I would not be so critical. It’s one thing to sit on the side and compare what is actually accomplished with some theoretical possible achievement.

But where is the proper balance between sticking with what you wanted to do, indeed promised to do, and the necessary compromise to get anything done in the real political world? Is Barack Obama doing everything he could do, or is he giving up too much to accomplish what is possible?

How we answer those questions is likely to depend on which issues are important to us, and what is happening with those particular issues at the moment. But the President does not have the luxury of dealing with each issue in isolation. I am confident that Obama’s objectives have not changed. I also believe he is not surprised by the need to accommodate the wishes and needs of other powerful people.

Obama has a powerful team of his own, but I bet there are some days when Rahm Emanuel tells the President how much he can get on a particular issue while keeping alive progress on the full range of an ambitious agenda where many items are critical to the future of our country and the world.

I’m confident that Barack Obama is making the best decisions he can, and I believe his record at the end of the day will be superb. He’s not perfect, but in my view, no one else could do it better.


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