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A newer deal?


It got somewhat lost yesterday, what with the world going loopy over a new iPhone, but the General Election kicked off properly, now that Senator Clinton has done the decent thing after finally acknowledged what most of us knew after the Pennsylvania primary. Barack Obama, freed of the need to be mindful of appealing to uncommitted primary voters, has launched a two-week tour targeting McCain, and if his speech in North Carolina was anything to go by, the gloves got left in Illinois.

Anyone who thought that Obama’s promise to bring a new kind of politics to the 2008 campaign meant a passive, ‘sweetness and light’ approach received a rude awakening as he repeatedly laid into McCain’s inconsistent positions and ill-thought out campaign promises, particularly on the economy:

John McCain once said that he couldn’t vote for the Bush tax breaks in good conscience because they were too skewed to the wealthiest Americans. Later, he said it was irresponsible to cut taxes during a time of war because we simply couldn’t afford them. Well, nothing’s changed about the war, but something’s certainly changed about John McCain, because these same Bush tax cuts are now his central economic policy. Not only that, but he is now calling for a new round of tax giveaways that are twice as expensive as the original Bush plan and nearly twice as regressive. His policy will spend nearly $2 trillion on tax breaks for corporations, including $1.2 billion for Exxon alone, a company that just recorded the highest profits in history.

Think about that. At a time when we’re fighting two wars, when millions of Americans can’t afford their medical bills or their tuition bills, when we’re paying more than $4 a gallon for gas, the man who rails against government spending wants to spend $1.2 billion on a tax break for Exxon Mobil. That isn’t just irresponsible. It’s outrageous.

Along the way, Obama has also been mooting the idea of using public spending to stimulate the economy, provide jobs, and tackling the growing problem of deferred maintenance of the nation’s infrastructure. To put that problem in context, the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission issued a report that underlined just how much work really needs to be done to the US’ highways and byways to bring them back up to spec: at least $220 billion a year for the next few decades. That’s almost twice as much as the country is spending in Iraq, which I think we can all agree is a lot of dough.

From where I’m sitting, putting the nation to work to start fixing the things that the baby boomers didn’t feel the need to pay for is more than a good idea, it’s an urgent necessity, and anyone who’s feared for their life braving the potholes on I-75 might agree. Then again, I’m a European and Keynesian policies aren’t the economic equivalent of McCain’s insult to his wife were I come from. Is the US ready for a public works program to try and return the country to its salad days of the 50s and 60s? Or has the Chicago school so thoroughly infected the discourse that any attempt would be portrayed as a remake of Il Duce draining the marshes?

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  • Joel Patterson

    Or has the Chicago school so thoroughly infected the discourse that any attempt would be portrayed as a remake of Il Duce draining the marshes?
    While people such as Merle Haggard advocate massive public works spending (“Rebuild America First”), Merle & like-minded thinkers don’t have space on the editorial pages, nor face time on the Sunday morning talkshows.
    George F. Will, however, will always have a gig to tell us just how good Milton Friedman’s ideas are.

  • Paul Gottlieb

    I think you meant to say: “after Ms. Clintion decisively WON the Pennsylvania primary.”

  • elm

    I liked that Sen. Obama spun tax breaks as a form of government spending. It makes it sound more egregious to say that we are choosing to spend our money by giving a break to Exxon rather than saying we cut Exxon’s taxes. I don’t know how well this approach will play, but I like it a lot personally.
    As to your point, I think if the public works program is spun as a jobs program, ala the New Deal programs, then it won’t work. If it’s spun as an infrastructure improvement program then it might. I think many Americans recognize the need to improve roads, bridges, tunnels, etc. and would be willing to spend (some) money on that. I think far fewer Americans think its the governments job to employ people.

  • elm

    Oh, and welcome, Jonathan!

  • John

    now that Senator Clinton has done the decent thing after finally acknowledged what most of us knew after the Pennsylvania Wisconsin primary.
    Or, if you’re going to go late, North Carolina.

  • John

    No strikethrough? annoying.

  • jon

    Infrastructure spending make a whole lot more sense than defense spending. Infrastructure has been proven to boost other portions of the economy and create unrelated business opportunities. You get something much more useful as an end product, you employ far more people per dollar spent, and you spend the money so it benefits the entire country, not just limited segments.
    The alternative is to keep selling off portions of our infrastructure – like highways and water supply systems – to foreign corporations who will then toll us or charge far more than operating costs to use what we paid for to begin with.
    As for helping out the poor, defenseless Fortune 500, remind me again what the corporate tax rate was when Eisenhower was president?

  • Hogan

    Actually, if Merle Haggard is on my side and George Will is on the other side, I kinda like my chances.

  • mario

    ya can’t yooz werdz that give less than a million google hitz – ya think we’re edjamacated or sumptin?

  • From your computer to g-d’s ear. I’d love a new WPA, or a new new deal, or a new great society, or hell a new anything at this point. Better than same old same old.
    And yes, welcome Jonathan. I think you’ll find the commenters here a hotbed of limp wristed, socialist, European style Keynesian, com-simp, lesbo, islamofascists so you should feel right at home. Do carry on.

  • Byron

    Obama has also been mooting the idea of using public spending to stimulate the economy, provide jobs, and tackling the growing problem of deferred maintenance of the nation’s infrastructure.

    Then again, I’m a European ….
    You can tell, since in the US the general meaning of “moot” is “4. trans. U.S. To render (a question, matter, etc.) irrelevant or of no practical significance.”, as the OED says. Not “3. trans. To raise or bring forward (a point, question, subject, etc.) for discussion; to propose, to suggest.” as it seems you’re using it. :)

  • Law Prof

    My question is whether Obama can simplify his complex thought for the folks for whom 30-second-commercials are simply too long to pay attention to. What’s sufficiently short and pointed? How about: “Exxon hasn’t maintained our bridges or our schools, so it’s time to do it ourselves”? (Should be an easy winner in Minnesota, sadly.)
    And a warm Cincinnati welcome to Jonathan.

  • Well, its true that was a tip off, bryan, but I think we have to give the heirs of the Moot and the Thing precedence, here and admit that the american usage is just plain weird.

  • howard

    from where i’m sitting, unfamiliar new voices who feel obliged to show off their shallowness by writing silly sentences like “now that Senator Clinton has done the decent thing after finally acknowledged what most of us knew after the Pennsylvania primary” don’t merit anyone’s attention, and you won’t be getting mine.

  • DocAmazing

    It’s not so much a New Deal, it’s a pre-owned Deal.

  • drip

    Barack Obama, freed of the need to be mindful of appealing to uncommitted primary voters, has launched a two-week tour targeting McCain which will be followed by 4 months of attempting to woo “swing voters” in “swing states” by saying things McCain could say. Its not that I think Obama isn’t a superior choice over the current occupant or the GOP’s older, stupider, more stubborn version, its just that the 30% or so who have not made their minds up yet are either outside american politics or so flighty as to be totally subject to current events as at Columbus day. In other words, if you can’t sell it to undereducated white lower middle class residents of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virginia, Missouri and a couple of other states, you ain’t gonna hear it from Obama or McCain. And its beyond my capacity to hope that Obama would dare propose the requisite redistribution of wealth without some really unpleasant turn of events.

  • drip

    Oh, btw, welcome Jonathan. howard’s just a little cranky due to the performance of his baseball team, although he makes a good point, as usual.

  • Law Prof
    too long. How about Exxon puts profits above your kids safety. Don’t let corporate profiteers spend your kids future. Its long, but all short words and when you have to unpack it, it just gets nicer.

  • howard

    drip – ha! actually, i’m just a little tired of the need for ritual demonstrations of coolness as a means of establishing street cred (there’s the secondary issue of why people feel the need for continued clinton-bashing and what it says about them).
    but now, if you want to see serious crankiness, get me going on people who refer to the ’50s as part of america’s salad days: sorry, jonathan, but even a non-american should know that segregation was the law of the land and that there is no way that anyone who wants to be taken seriously and credibly as a progressive should confuse “salad days” for the white middle class with “salad days” for america.
    the clinton remark is juvenile; the “salad days” remark is ill-informed….

  • elm

    How come every time someone says something you disagree with (Jeter is overrated, Clinton should have dropped out), you ascribe their motives as an attempt to look cool? Can’t someone sincerely believe something different from you and wish to express that opinion even when you feel it is unnecessary?

  • T. Paine

    Can’t someone sincerely believe something different from you and wish to express that opinion even when you feel it is unnecessary?
    Not if that person is on howard’s lawn…
    I’m a little confused as to why howard bothers to read LGM at all, since he dislikes the proprietors’ expressions so much…

  • howard

    elm, good question.
    i don’t deny that there are people who think jeter is a gold glover when he isn’t; however, as far as i can tell, not a single one of them reads and posts at this site.
    so when scott – who is, after all, fully capable of extended, subtle arguments – can’t write jeter’s name without whatever his official scott nickname is (“saint derek of the diving pasta” or something like that), i assume he’s not doing it because he can’t argue on a higher plane but because he thinks it’s clever or cool or funny or what have you, and then various folks like to pile on and show that they can play that game too!
    similarly, when jonathan – whom i don’t know from adam – throws in a completely pointless element to his lead sentence – read the paragraph without everything after the comma in his first sentence and tell me if the meaning changes – i have to assume he’s not doing it because the notion of clinton “finally acknowledg(ing) what most of us knew” is essential to his meaning but because again, it provides street cred, or cool, or whatever you’d like to call it.
    if, for instance, every time i mentioned the yanks i said something like “who have 18 more world series champs than those boston red sox wannabes,” you might start wondering why i feel such an incessant need to imitate a yahoo in a bar, and you’d be right to wonder.
    hell, i don’t care: maybe “cool” isn’t the right term for the phenomenon. i gather that some people believe, for example, that repetition of a lame joke makes it funnier (only if you’re johnny carson, in my estimation), so maybe that’s what’s going on. or maybe it’s because some folks have difficulty with constructing snark-free sentences (an issue i’ve been known to struggle with myself).
    so i’m open-minded what the right descriptive term is, but it has nothing to do with things i disagree with (i don’t disagree that there are people who overrate jeter; i don’t disagree that it’s been clear for a very long time that clinton wasn’t going to win this thing – indeed, as i said up above, it was clear to me that short of a major misstep by obama, he won it in iowa and the rest was just proving out the theorem).
    tell me, elm: what’s your explanation for why jonathan felt the need to insert that line into his first sentence? it’s not exactly breaking news so that can’t be it….

  • howard

    ha! now T Paine worries about whether i fit into the clubhouse!
    i read LGM, T Paine, because actually i think our co-hosts write a lot of interesting, thoughtful stuff; that’s why the juvenelia is so discordant.
    i try to make it my practice in comments sections not to bother to say something that someone else has already said nor to simply post in order to say “well-argued,” so the vast majority of my comments are going to be when i disagree with something.
    scott, for example, is an extremely knowledgable guy about baseball (which again is why i think the incessant jeter-bashing is beneath him), and i enjoy the give-and-take of real baseball talk as much as the next guy (i just don’t consider “st derek of the diving pasta” real baseball talk).
    in short, t. paine, with the exception of the periodic troll infestation, i regard LGM and its commenters as allies in the struggle for truth and justice, but just because we’re allies doesn’t mean i have to agree with every little aspect of expression that takes place here.
    but that said, i’ll pose to you the same question i posed to elm: what was the narrative point of jonathan’s little line about clinton? how did it advance his argument?
    and then i’ll pose the related question: do you think it’s ok to refer to the ’50s as america’s salad days? do you miss segregation that much?

  • drip

    I’m not sure this is howard’s lawn, and he doesn’t need my help, but the idea that the first black candidate of a major party wants to return to the ’50’s and ’60’s is preposterous. howard’s pointing that out was in keeping with what one is likely to get here. That Jonathan should discover early on that LGM commenters actually read and think about the posts is a good thing.
    A reason to be here, in addition to the thoughtful postings of the contributors, are the comments from people like howard (and many others). I don’t need conversations with people who know what I know. Tell me what I don’t know. Tell me what I missed. I get that here. There are plenty of places on the intertubes where you can find unanimity, but few places where the contributers and commenters genuinely seem to try to improve their level of understanding through discourse, rather than bombast, pedantry or snark.

  • grouchomarxist

    … start fixing the things that the baby boomers didnit feel the need to pay for …
    Generalize much, Jonathan? Any other arbitrarily-assigned groups whose shiftless, profligate ways you’d care to comment upon?
    There are just too many levels of ignorance in this kind of lazy intellectual shorthand to waste this boomer’s time unpacking them all.

  • elm

    howard, go back to that last Jeter thread. Some of us (including me) made comments on why we talk about Jeter in these parts. In short, even if no one here disagrees, it doesn’t mean we don’t need a place to vent given that the baseball world as a whole seems to disagree.
    I don’t know what Jonathan’s motives were, and in general I’m not a fan of impugning motives to people I don’t consider my enemy, but there’s definitely a way in which Jonathan’s comment about Sen. Clinton dropping out is relevant to the point of the post.
    As I see it, the point to the post is that Sen. Obama is raising an important and interesting critique of Sen. McCain’s economic policies and offering specific alternatives of his own. Sen. Obama is able to do this now that the primary is over and he is able to pivot fully into general election mode. If Sen. Clinton had dropped out earlier, back when “most of us knew” it was over, Sen. Obama could have started these attacks on Sen. McCain even earlier.
    Now, I disagree with Jonathan that the Pennsylvania primary was in any way a turning point in the primary process. I agree with John above that the final nail was either Wisconsin or NC/Indiana. But that’s a small point of disagreement.
    Is the argument that Sen. Obama could have started general election attacks earlier if Sen. Clinton had dropped out earlier the most important part of the post? Not to me, which is why my first comment focuses instead on other parts of the post. But it is relevant to the post.
    But what do I know? Maybe Jonathan was just signaling to the readers of a blog that has been fairly anti-Clinton campaign that he is one of them. In a first post, that also seems somewhat worthy. In bean’s first post she told us she was a NY Ranger fan, G-d bless them.

  • Jonathan

    Hmm. Perhaps the intended meaning of the ‘salad days’ remark didn’t come across properly. Of course segregation is a bad thing(TM) and of course I’m not suggesting it should come back. The 1950s and 1960s do seem to represent the high water mark for other aspects of America though; you’d just finished building your freeways, the nation’s infrastructure was new and shiny, the Us had scientific dominance, and you were sending people into space.

  • Jonathan

    Oh, and the Clinton/PA thing was due to her only winning the state by 9%. Failing to win by double digits was the writing on the wall.

  • T. Paine

    and then i’ll pose the related question: do you think it’s ok to refer to the ’50s as america’s salad days? do you miss segregation that much?
    Gee howard, have you stopped raping little kids?
    But I agree with your tendentious and picayune point: The 1950s were good for the white middle class, but not that great for non-whites of any economic stratum.
    In the same vein, I find that you are utterly lacking in credibility and critical thought because you refer to the country as “America,” when any fool knows that:
    1. There are many countries in the Americas, and to refer to this country as anything other than “the United States of America” is disrespectful to those other countries.
    2. The country itself was stolen from the Native Americans, and to refer to it as anything other than a variety of traditional Native American names is obviously ratifying the past and present genocide of those indigenous peoples.
    In other words, you’re acting like a prat.

  • howard

    well, t paine, i guess i’m going to have to live with being thought a “prat;” i think getting the ’50s right is more than “tendentious and picayune,” but de gustibus non est disputandum.
    as for jonathan, i appreciate that he is willing to reconsider his phrasing: the ’50s are a fascinating and complex period, but no period in which segregation was the law of the land can possibly be considered “salad days.” i think the accurate ground would be to say: “it would be great for american economic growth to have the strength it did in the ’50s and ’60s without apartheid in place.”
    as for the opening line, look: my goal was for the party to unite around whoever won in iowa, but the notion that it took clinton’s concession for obama to attack mccain is unfounded. by historic frameworks, there’s loads of time to attack mccain, and attacks on mccain in april might not even have registered on many voters. (the gop didn’t get serious about attcking kerry until the late august convention; didn’t seem to be a problem….)
    elm, as for jeter, let me put it this way: regardless of what you may think the “baseball world” thinks (i don’t even know what the “baseball world” is!), if people need to vent on jeter because out there in the universe are those who overrate him, then i need to vent on those who vent on jeter because out there in the universe are those who overrate him!
    drip: support always welcome!

  • TG

    It is just so lazy to blame “the baby boomers” for everything that is wrong with the country… as though this were some monolithic group, and as though it were a given that Gen X or Gen Y or whatever Gen you are can/will do better. In every generation there are people who do the right thing, people who don’t, and people who have trouble telling the difference.

  • TG,
    what an important point. The whole blame the baby boomers thing came about fifteen seconds after clinton won his election from the decayed remnants of the “greatest generation.” It seems to have escaped the younger set’s grasp of the obvious that these “generations” are actually what we might call huge masses of people only loosely bound together by the accident of history and geography into a signficant political force and while they may vote their interests or vote against their interests, as the case may be, it is very seldom clear how the aggregate acts of the whole are actually set in motion (or stopped) by the singular decisions of the individual. Or, as you put it more succinctly, your day is coming sonny and we’ll see then just how easy it is to know what the right thing to do is not just for yourself and your family but for the entire of your society and the world too.

  • Well, now that we have yet another bridge over the Mississippi in Minnesota that requires repair, I think that we can demonstrate somewhat of a pattern here. (Luckily they closed this bridge before it collapsed.)

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