Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Andrew Sullivan on the Republicans and Obama


"If a black Republican president had come in, helped turn around the banking and auto industries (at a small profit!), insured millions through the private sector while cutting Medicare, overseen a sharp decline in illegal immigration, ramped up the war in Afghanistan, reinstituted pay-as-you go in the Congress, set up a debt commission to offer hard choices for future debt reduction, and seen private sector job growth outstrip the public sector's in a slow but dogged recovery, somehow I don't think that Republican would be regarded as a socialist."

Given the Clinton nostalgia we've seen from some quarters of the right in recent years, I predict that Obama's presidency will be seen as "the good old days" by Republicans in about 15 years.

* My Andrew Sullivan boycott remains in effect. Stuff still bubbles up to me, though, and I'm not going to pretend I don't see it.


Ben said...

Your boycott would be stronger if you didn't discuss Sullivan at all.

The problem with Sullivan's formulation here is he sugarcoats the facts.

1) "...helped turn around the banking and auto industries..."

Bush and Obama nationalized dozens of banks and Obama nationalized two auto companies. It may have been temporary, but that's what they did. In the process of nationalizing GM and Chrysler, Obama's administration denied bondholders their legal recompense while enriching members of a favored constituency -- the United Autoworkers of America.

2) "...insured millions through the private sector while cutting Medicare..."

Overstatement. Some provisions of the law went into effect in September. It's more accurate to say millions of Americans have had their insurance policies changed by government mandate. What Sullivan neglects to mention, of course, is the pernicious effects of the law and the administration's tendency to grant waivers to favored corporations.

3) "...overseen a sharp decline in illegal immigration..."

This one made me laugh out loud, actually. Illegal immigration is down, alright. Quite coincidentally, the nation's unemployment rate is stuck around 9.6 percent and the economy is recovering glacially from a recession that ended in June 2009.

4) "...ramped up the war in Afghanistan..."

I think we've done a column or two about this.

5) "...reinstituted pay-as-you-go in the Congress..."

And simultaneously raised the debt ceiling. (This is a bipartisan affliction, as you know, and it will be worth watching the new Republicans very carefully on this front.)

6) "...set up a debt commission..."

Commission!? Commission!? The commission is a joke. The hard choices will be a VAT or higher income taxes or a VAT and higher income taxes. Maybe some superficial spending cuts and a nod toward greater transparency. Tax cuts? Forget it.

7) "...seen private sector job growth outstrip the public sector's in a slow but dogged recovery..."

Partly true, although one man's "dogged recovery" is another's "tepid recovery." The latest survey from the Labor Department shows most of the new jobs are in temporary work, retail sales and health care. The sectors hardest hit by the recession -- construction and manufacturing -- haven't moved much. I look at these data and the relatively flat unemployment rate and reflect on all of the stories in 2004 and 2005 about George W. Bush's "jobless recovery" when unemployment was still at historic lows. This is what a real jobless recovery looks like.

Ben said...

I may have to amend my comments on the debt commission.