The Obama administration, based on hope and naivete, neither of which constitutes a plan, missed its chance to make the great recession milder and shorter. Ezra Klein tiptoes right up to the argument that missing the chance is politically inevitable:
The tendency thus far has been to look at these crises in terms of the identifiable economic factors that make them different from typical recessions. But perhaps the better approach is to look at the political factors that make them turn out the same, that stop governments from doing enough even when they have sworn to err on the side of doing too much.Paul Krugman, commenting on Klein's insightful piece, wants President Obama to start even now to make the case for more stimulus, for his jobs bill, for muscular intervention in the economy:
These crises have a sort of immune system. It is never possible for the political system to do enough to stop them at the outset, as it is never quite clear how bad they are. Even if it were, the system is ill-equipped to take action at that scale. The actors comfort themselves with the thought that if they need to do more, they can do it later. And, for now, the fact that this is the largest rescue package anyone has ever seen has to be worth something.
[T]he White House was weak and confused in the face of a political and economic debacle, when it should have gone all out.I think the chance has been missed. Permanently. I think Klein is right:
And you know what? It should still go all out.
With something extraordinary that is nevertheless not enough, the economy deteriorates, and the government sees its solutions discredited and its political standing weakened by the worsening economic storm. That keeps it from doing more.Any use Obama can make of the bully pulpit now would be welcome but would be strictly political. The Republican plan - starting November 5, 2008 - was massive resistance.
There was only one way to deal with that, since the Democrat's nominal 60-vote majority in the Senate was a castle built on sand. That was for Obama to call up Harry Reid and to tell him to tell Joe Lieberman to fuck off, to kill the filibuster, and to ram his program through.
That's what Republicans would have done. No quarter.
Then the President would have needed to stay on the campaign trail to fulfill his ambition to be President of all Americans. He needed to appeal directly, not through the GOP, whose leadership only cared about destroying the Obama Presidency, like the Clinton Presidency before it.
The failure of the Obama administration was not inevitable. It was not doctrinal. They just weren't ruthless enough in the politics of governance. They thought governing would be about rational compromise with loyal but tractable opponents. It wasn't, as they should have been able to see from the start.