Brooks: Obama not out to overturn the Reagan Revolution
almost a month ago now. Still got the chart on the wall, Brooksie? 'Cause the unions are getting busted in the chops with this no-deal to help the auto industry. The war on working Americans goes on.
In the first place, they do not see themselves as a group of liberal crusaders. They see themselves as pragmatists who inherited a government and an economy that have been thrown out of whack. They’re not engaged in an ideological project to overturn the Reagan Revolution, a fight that was over long ago. They’re trying to restore balance: nurture an economy so that productivity gains are shared by the middle class and correct the irresponsible habits that developed during the Bush era.
No biggie, you say? Well, since that column ran we've had the President himself all over the TV and radio talking about ... the economy. Not the way Bill Clinton did, either. But Paul Krugman himself has been anything but reticent in his criticism of the President on the Wall Street bailouts, and there's a nearly-unnoticed little item in a recent Newsweek piece indicating that one of the people who visited Brooks was, actually, Obama.
Obama aides have invited commentators of all persuasions to the White House for some off-the-record stroking; in February, after Krugman's fellow Times op-ed columnist David Brooks wrote a critical column accusing Obama of overreaching, Brooks, a moderate Republican, was cajoled by three different aides and by the president himself, who just happened to drop by. But, says Krugman, "the White House has done very little by way of serious outreach. I've never met Obama. He pronounced my name wrong"—when, at a press conference, the president, with a slight note of irritation in his voice, invited Krugman (pronounced with an "oo," not an "uh" sound) to offer a better plan for fixing the banking system.
Now, much as I like many of the things this President is doing, I dislike entirely his handling of the con-game collapse of the Bush-inspired, Gramm-licensed Wall Street meltdown that continues, more than 60 days after "Change has come to Washington," to hang over all our heads like Damocles' blade.
In deference to the need to address the economy we've seen a complete abandonment of many other issues near and dear to the hearts of voters, and a continuation of the war on unions and by proxy on the American working class (and their families) begun under Richard Milhous Nixon (remember stagflation?). We've seen Don't Ask Don't Tell upheld with a nonchalant "push that down the road." We've seen the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq continued with vague promises about 18 months (how many Friedman units is that, Atrios? Cumulatively? I've lost count of the numbers of 'withdrawal plans' and 'stand up stand down' dates in which we were promised the GIs would come home. They're still dying, and the administration's still lying -- if the banks were profitable despite the subprime / CDS / AIG-bonus disasters, they would not need to be bailed out, and the simplest way to bail out the US auto industry would actually also be good for all Americans, because it would be single-payer health care, which would immediately remove the biggest single corporate liability nationwide. It would also, of course, invalidate the multitrillion dollar shell game that is the US health insurance industry overnight. Small loss that, as symbiosis differs unsubtly from parasitism).
Tellingly, Paul Krugman was shut out of the Clinton administration because, demonstrably, he's averse to "have it all" stances:
Krugman is not likely to show up in an administration job in part because he has a noble—but not government-career-enhancing—history of speaking truth to power. With dry humor, he once told a friend the story of attending an economic summit in Little Rock after Bill Clinton was elected president in 1992. As the friend recounted the story to NEWSWEEK, "Clinton asked Paul, 'Can we have a balanced budget and health-care reform?'—essentially, can we have it all? And Paul said, 'No, you have to be disciplined. You have to make choices.' Then Paul says to me (deadpan), 'That was the wrong answer.' Then Clinton turns to Laura Tyson and asks the same questions, and she says, 'Yes, it's all possible, you have your cake and eat it too.' And then [Paul] says, 'That was the right answer'." (Tyson became chairman of Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers; she did not respond to requests to comment.) Krugman confirmed the story to NEWSWEEK with a smile. "I'm more tolerant now," he says. But at the time, he was bitter that he was kept out of the Clinton administration.
He'll be kept out of the Obama administration, too. David Brooks may end up invited in before it's over, though. He's a Republican, after all, and that, in the eyes of transcendence, automatically makes him more qualified than a Nobel laureate.