Wonkblog: President Obama

Why hasn’t anyone been fired over HealthCare.gov?

Why hasn’t anyone been fired over HealthCare.gov?

When the Obama administration realized that HealthCare.gov was fundamentally broken rather than merely glitchy, aides called former management consultant Jeff Zients to fix it.

When the White House realized restive congressional Democrats posed a serious threat to the health-care law’s future, the president recalled Phil Schiliro, the White House’s first director of legislative affairs, to safeguard it.

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The government is the only reason U.S. inequality is so high

The government is the only reason U.S. inequality is so high

While the rhetoric in President Obama's big inequality speech Wednesday was characteristically soaring, the policy proposals were largely rehashes of past administration initiatives. What's more, a surprising number of them had little to do with tax or transfer programs. Things like increasing exports, reducing certain regulations, boosting spending on scientific research and other investments, and raising the minimum wage are intended to reduce inequality before taxes or transfer programs like Social Security and the Earned Income Tax Credit come into the picture.

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Could bombing Syria kill more civilians than it saves?

Could bombing Syria kill more civilians than it saves?

Could bombing Syria kill more civilians than it saves?

The answer is clearly yes, and for two reasons.

The first is that our bombs will kill people. The United States will do everything it can to minimize civilian casualties, of course. But Syrian President Bashar al-Assad won’t. As James Fearon writes, “you can bet that the Assad regime will do what it can to make it so attacks do kill, or appear to kill, a lot of civilians.”

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In the next four years, we'll see if Wall Street can be reformed

In the next four years, we'll see if Wall Street can be reformed

Four years ago, President Obama was sworn in as a financial crisis was still engulfing the markets and the economy. Now he can point to a Wall Street overhaul that he helped push through Congress, intended to prevent such a meltdown from happening again. But to a large extent, the real impact of those financial reforms will depend on what happens over the next four years.

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Transcript: President Obama 2013 inaugural address

Transcript: President Obama 2013 inaugural address

As Prepared for Delivery

Vice President Biden, Mr. Chief Justice, Members of the United States Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens:

Each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional what makes us American is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:

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Where are the White House's new voices?

Where are the White House's new voices?

About a year ago, I talked to an ex-Obama White House official about who would replace Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner when the time came. We cycled through a few names before Jack Lew's came up. "Oh," said the former staffer. "Of course it'll be Lew."

President Obama's personnel strategy has changed over the years. When he first took office, his hiring choices were notable for the wide net he cast. Rather than pulling together his own "Chicago Mafia," or even populating his inner circle with members of his campaign, he dug deep into the bench of ex-Clinton officials (Peter Orszag, Larry Summers, Lew, Gene Sperling), held onto some George W. Bush appointees (Robert Gates), tapped a handful of key members of Congress (Ray Lahood, Rahm Emanuel), and grabbed a slew of high-profile academics (Christina Romer, Cass Sunstein). The White House was criticized for its relative dearth of business executives, but it was nevertheless a White House where many different worlds collided into each other.

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The Romney campaigns biggest mistake in the election

The Romney campaigns biggest mistake in the election

Look at this photograph of the crowd at Mitt Romney's concession speech last night:

Now look at President Obama's victory rally:



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Obamas victory speech: Behind the return of the presidents rhetoric

Obamas victory speech: Behind the return of the presidents rhetoric

Judging from Twitter, President Obama's rousing victory speech left most everyone with the same question: Where's that guy been during the 2012 campaign?

There's an answer to that question. The Obama campaign pored through the focus groups and the polls and came to believe that though voters were disappointed with Obama, they didn't really hold the disappointments of the last few years against him. They figured no one could have delivered the kind of hope and change Obama had promised against an economy this bad, a Republican Party this intransigent, a world this dangerous.

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Obamas second term: Change you can really believe in

Obamas second term: Change you can really believe in

Typically, presidential elections are about, well, hope and change. The candidates make lots of promises about all the policies they'll change, then they hope that they can get those promises through Congress. Usually, they fail.

President Obama's reelection, ironically, isn't about hope and change. The hope is largely gone, but the changes are already happening.

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Obama wants a clean debt-ceiling bill

President Obama and Speaker John Boehner had lunch today. Here, according to Boehner’s office, is how their discussion of the debt ceiling went:

In a discussion of the debt limit, the Speaker – who has warned that the growing debt is hurting U.S. job creation – asked the President if he is proposing that Congress pass an increase that does not include any spending cuts to help reduce the deficit. The President said, “yes.” The Speaker told the President, “as long as I’m around here, I’m not going to allow a debt ceiling increase without doing something serious about the debt.”

In other words, the White House’s position, for now, is that they want a clean debt-ceiling bill. We’ll see if they stick to it.

Also from Boehner’s office: “the Speaker was very pleased with the sandwiches served.” I bet he was. They came from Taylor Gourmet, and Taylor Gourmet is delicious.

What would Obama do in a second term?

“In a second term,” Mitt Romney darkly warned members of the National Rifle Association last month, President Obama “would be unrestrained by the demands of reelection.”

But Romney was cagey about what, exactly, that would mean: His only specific prediction was that Obama would “remake” the Supreme Court. So it was helpful when, at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner a week ago, the president opened up about the “secret agenda” he has planned. “In my first term,” he joked, “we ended the war in Iraq; in my second term, I will win the war on Christmas. . . . In my first term, we passed health-care reform; in my second term, I guess I’ll pass it again.”


(Andrew Harrer - Bloomberg)

In other speeches, Obama has offered a more serious preview of what he’d like to get done if he’s reelected. On March 30, he listed second-term priorities including reforming the immigration system; remaking the nation’s energy policy so it addresses “the long-term challenges. . . . of energy independence and climate change;” doing more to ensure that “people who don’t have work can find work” and that “our housing system is working for everybody;” pushing forward on education reform; and executing an “effective transition out of Afghanistan.”

But that’s not really a list of what Obama will do in his second term. It’s a list of what he would like to do.

The president’s advisers are naturally reluctant to discuss what happens if their candidate wins in November. They don’t want to appear overconfident or undercut the messages of the campaign. None was willing to speak on the record. But in dozens of conversations over the past few months, it has become clear that their thinking on what the president can do has evolved significantly in the last four years.

In 2008, the Obama campaign often seemed to believe that as president, Obama would be able to personally inaugurate a new era of cooperation in Washington. But after the past three years, which have been full of debt-ceiling showdowns they didn’t want and jobs bills they couldn’t pass, they have become more realistic, and are quick to caution that, in most cases, what they can get done in a second term will depend on what Congress is willing to do with them.

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‘Let’s just step back for a second and look at what $150,000 pays for’

Here’s a riff from Obama’s budget speech today that I predict you’re going to hear quite often over the next year:

Meanwhile, these proposed tax breaks would come on top of more than a trillion dollars in tax giveaways for people making more than $250,000 a year. That’s an average of at least $150,000 for every millionaire in this country -- $150,000. Let’s just step back for a second and look at what $150,000 pays for:

A year’s worth of prescription drug coverage for a senior citizen. Plus a new school computer lab. Plus a year of medical care for a returning veteran. Plus a medical research grant for a chronic disease. Plus a year’s salary for a firefighter or police officer. Plus a tax credit to make a year of college more affordable. Plus a year’s worth of financial aid. One hundred fifty thousand dollars could pay for all of these things combined -- investments in education and research that are essential to economic growth that benefits all of us. For $150,000, that would be going to each millionaire and billionaire in this country. This budget says we’d be better off as a country if that’s how we spend it.

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