In his State of the Union address last month, President Obama avoided any deep discussion of global trade and the proposed agreements his administration is trying to complete -- leaving some to wonder if the president was still committed to what had been a core piece of his economic agenda. In the days since, the difficult politics of the issue got even worse. Labor, environmental and some other core
Annie Lowrey* writes that "the [Obama] administration has named no more women to high-level executive branch posts than the Clinton administration did almost two decades ago." Here's the graph:
So Obama's record is slightly worse than Clinton's.
As described by his former colleague, Jared Bernstein:
I've worked closely with Jason, and there are few economists I can think of who both get macro (which is to say, see it the way I do) and have such a deep, granular knowledge of federal economic and fiscal policy, in no small part because he's played a role in shaping those policies since the Clinton years. This is a guy who can hold forth on the history of the tiers of the unemployment insurance system as well as the exemptions in the corporate tax code, including the Senators who snuck them in there.
Roughly speaking, I'd describe the values of Furmanomics thusly:
Progressive taxation that raises ample revenue;
Boosting efficiencies and squeezing out inefficiencies in the tax code and the health care system;
Solidly Keynesian in recession (he was ally in those arguments back in the day);
Crafting policies with a clear eye to implementation constraints (something you only develop from pretty long experience in the gov't sector);
Strong supporter of the safety net (see here, e.g., re the little-known Furman effect).
I’ve criticized the Obama campaign for failing to detail much of a vision for a second term. But that’s not to say they don’t have one. They do. It’s just a hard one to campaign on.
After promising in 2008 to bring about a new era of cooperation in Washington, they’re campaigning in 2012 knowing that, if reelected, they will start their second term with a brutal, economy-shaking showdown with Republicans over spending and taxes.
David Leonhardt’s critique of “Obamanomics” is worth reading. I agree with almost all of it. And yet, I think it also functions as something of a critique of the critiques of “Obamanomics.”
Leonhardt’s argument — which is similar to my argument in “Could This Time Have Been Different?” — is, basically, that the Obama administration wasn’t sufficiently quick in recognizing that we were in a prolonged slump rather than an unusually severe recession. This is, by now, something close to conventional wisdom.
“Where was Obama’s staff weak? Carter’s staff, above all, specialized in Jimmy Carter. Bill Clinton’s staff learned part of that lesson, adding Hill experience and therefore party connections. Obama’s staff improved on Clinton’s by adding White House experience. But none of them had much in the way of experience with the departments and agencies of the executive branch, and that’s been in my view a possible explanation for why Obama hasn’t been quick to use that part of the presidency to his benefit (and the nation’s benefit).” — An interesting thesis from Jonathan Bernstein that could help explain the Obama administration’s puzzling inattention to nominations.
Jacob Weisberg isn’t a big fan of Ron Suskind’s new book, nor, for that matter, of Ron Suskind. I’ve also been reading ‘The Confidence Men,’ and like Weisberg, I’m not impressed, but for a very different reason. Let’s call it, as Suskind does, the Larry Summers problem.
“It all boils down to the classic Larry Summers problem,” writes Suskind at one point. “He can frame arguments with such force and conviction that people think he knows more than he does. Instead of looking at a record pockmarked with bad decisions, people see his extemporaneous brilliance and let themselves be dazzled. Summers’s long career has come to look, more and more, like one long demonstration of the difference between wisdom and smarts.”