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Torie
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« on: June 13, 2012, 12:07:58 pm »
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Sean Trende (man the guy has produced a lot of excellent material this year imo) has written what I think is a most insightful piece about rewriting Obama's past with a view of buttressing his future ... if only.  He also I think does an excellent and quite "fair and balanced" analysis of the stimulus, and where it went wrong, when with different packaging and some tweaks it might have went right, and been far less controversial.  He also does a fly by deconstructing and reconstructing Obamacare, but that bit has less beef in it.

What do you think?
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« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2012, 05:17:27 pm »
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Should have gone for a bigger stimulus with more in the way of infrastructure spending as opposed to tax cuts, as well as to revive manufacturing in the United States over the longer-term while reducing consumer spending.  What we saw (combined with TARP as well as quantitative easing by the Federal Reserve) was enough to stave off another Great Depression, but that was all it was capable of. 
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« Reply #2 on: June 13, 2012, 05:28:54 pm »
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With 60 votes, he should have sunsetted the Bush tax cuts for high income workers forever, put a public option in the HCR legislation and went for the payroll tax cut all to help out the lower to middle class not just the banks and auto unions.
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greenforest32
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« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2012, 05:31:12 pm »
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Why did the financial reform bill wait until 2010 anyway? Because of the Senate (filibusters?)?

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If this template had been followed, I think the president would have had the political capital to get quite a lot done on health care reform, even if he wouldn’t have gotten the whole enchilada. A Medicare buy-in for voters over age 55, improvements to portability, the pool for people (such as yours truly) with serious pre-existing medical conditions all would have been popular, and easily passed as stand-alone legislation.

Medicare at 55? We didn't even get a repeal of the bans on importing prescription drugs and allowing Medicare to negotiate Rx prices...
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« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2012, 05:43:47 pm »
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Should have gone for a bigger stimulus with more in the way of infrastructure spending as opposed to tax cuts,

Didn't have the votes for it.  But I agree he should have tried harder and pointed out the GOP blocked it when he came down.

With 60 votes, he should have sunsetted the Bush tax cuts for high income workers forever, put a public option in the HCR legislation and went for the payroll tax cut all to help out the lower to middle class not just the banks and auto unions.

He tried on Bush tax cuts for rich in 2010.  Fell short.  We got the payroll tax cut.  Didn't have the votes for the public option but idea has support nationally so there should be a way to get the votes.
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Indy Texas
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« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2012, 06:03:30 pm »
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1. Should have had one really big stimulus instead of repeatedly asking Congress for smaller ones.

2. The Waxman-Markey climate change bill was a waste of political capital and it unnecessarily alienated people. A legitimate reason many working class people dislike Obama is because he has pushed policies that adversely impact their livelihoods (coal mining, oil and gas drilling, etc). If I could tell the president one thing, it would be that "traditional" energy development is a relatively easy way to create jobs that do not require a college education. That's something you can't say as much about renewables (solar panels get made in largely automated factories; wind turbines aren't very labor intensive once they're installed; green energy research and consulting creates jobs for engineers, scientists and MBAs, not so much for former coal miners and roughnecks).
The energy efficiency initiatives were ineffective. People weren't going to spend thousands on Energy Star appliances and double-paned windows in the middle of a recession, even if they got a tax credit.

3. Stimulus money should have gone almost exclusively towards education (in the form of grants to states that were often facing budget shortfalls) and infrastructure (in the form of repairing and refurbishing federal roads and bridges, and in the form of upgrading and expanding fiber optic networks for high-speed Internet).
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Senator Polnut
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« Reply #6 on: June 13, 2012, 06:10:08 pm »
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1. Only slightly bigger stimulus, but no personal income tax cuts as part of it.

2. Tread water on health reform, and focus on jobs and housing from the beginning. HR was important, but when people are losing their livelihoods and their homes, health reform was not at the top of the agenda. So direct stimulus at infrastructure projects and undertake some kind of moratorium on foreclosures to ensure correct practices are being applied... increased foreclosures = low property values = less property taxes for state/local governments, that also drives down consumer spending and confidence and slows the economy.

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« Reply #7 on: June 13, 2012, 06:39:16 pm »
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I don't know, man. Yes, liberals go back and write about what Obama should have done all the time, but conservatives like Trende writing about it leaves a bad taste. It seems like gloating, patronizing. You haven't won the election yet, guys. Smiley And it's bad enough when liberals do it, because they're usually wrong. The effect of Monday-morning quarterbacking is demoralizing. It makes you want to put your head down under your hands in a mix of resignation and embarassment, like those Captain Picard images you see posted sometimes to indicate frustration.

Because the implication is that one, Obama failed, and two, that the person doing the writing knew better and would have done better, even though the person in question is looking at things from retrospect and only has to write an article about what would be done, but would never have to actually do it.

Take Trende's conviction that a second stimulus would have been possible. His analysis is unconvincing. First, he argues that since Democrats were able to pass a highly controversial and eventually unpopular health care reform bill, a second stimulus should have been possible.

However, this ignores the fact that there's a difference between passing something one time, and passing a second version or something previously passed. Not passing health care reform would have been an admission of failure of sorts, like the failure to pass to any Energy legislation, or the failure to tackle Immigration reform. Once Obama had taken it up, the entire fortune of his Presidency resided on the basis of something getting passed, and the entire interest of the opposition lay in it being defeated. Thus, there was massive incentive upon the 60 Democratic Senators to stay unified in support of a bill, and massive incentive upon the 40-41 Republican Senators to stay unified in opposition. Additionally, Republicans tend to underestimate the spectre of 1994 on the Democrats' thinking. The reason why 1994 was so humiliating is not that the Democrats lost Congress after 40 years, but that they lost Congress in spite of not passing anything. The 1994 election ended the promise of the Clinton Presidency, despite his reelection and despite Trende's attempts to praise Clinton's later smaller legislative accomplishments. Democrats, from the White House down, haunted by the memory of 1994, and the symbolism that a failure on health care would be, were more determined than ever to pass it.

None of these factors would have been in play for a second stimulus. Democrats would not have seen a second stimulus, as being as critical since one had already been passed. It would have just been a numbers game. And Republicans would have no interest in supporting it, since their entire narrative at the time was that stimulus was ineffective. That this article lacks a connection with reality is driven home by Trende's comment that the Obama administration adopt "the Romer-Bernstein chart, as adapted by conservative bloggers". First of all, that was a rightwing propaganda point, highly misleading because when the original Romer-Bernstein chart was developed, the unemployment rate was already at the highest level on the chart (which was not projected until later). In other words, by the time the chart was created, existing conditions already made it out of date. The inaccuracy was solely due to the fast-moving conditions of late 2008/early 2009, which were deteriorating so quickly that a few months' delay in macroeconomic data had a significant difference. But conservatives exploited this difference to argue that the stimulus was ineffective. So basically Trend was saying, that the Democrats should have used a conservative Republican propaganda image designed to undercut support for stimulus, to argue for more stimulus on behalf of the Democratic President!

Most important of all though, is that the primary determinant of whether a second shot of something is worthwhile is whether the first shot of it seemed successful. Trende seems to be admitting that stimulus does indeed help the economy. Is he a Keynesian? Conservatives are the ones who killed a second stimulus in late 2009, because they argued that stimulus, in general, was ineffective. And they would not have supported a second one in late 2009, health care bill or no, because they would have been too busy arguing that the first was ineffective.

As it is, all comprehensive economic studies from non-ideological entities of both the public and private sector find that the stimulus was effective, and it doesn't appear that there were the votes there for a larger one.

As for health care reform, I give the President great credit for getting something passed, and less credit for his skill in selling what he passed. But the first is not to be underestimated. The Democrats had a very narrow window from when Al Franken was sworn in until when Scott Brown was sworn in, to pass something, and they did it. Waiting any longer would have meant no bill.

Finally, as to why financial reform took so long (it was seriously taken up immediately after health care and passed in mid-2010, not late 2010 as Trende says), a lot of it had to do with the amount of time that it took to study the complicated issues involved. The main problem with financial reform is not that it took so long, but it was being debated at a time when the financial system was still extremely fragile. Witness the difficulties the banks are having today anticipating the Basel III requirements, and the delays that the authorities in China are taking in enforcing tougher bank requirements, as they try to stimulate lending. Hence, a fairly strong bill looked possible with a push from progressive Senators in April of 2010, but the onset of the Greek crisis spooked legislators and in the end, many of the tricky issues were kicked to the Federal Reserve and the regulatory process.
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Senator Polnut
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« Reply #8 on: June 13, 2012, 06:43:06 pm »
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OK... my basic point is that if the president had acted on jobs and housing and gotten the good-will of the American people, it could have made a) passing healthcare easier and b) made the 2010 midterms a little less bloody for the Dems.

In fact that was my view at the time.
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« Reply #9 on: June 13, 2012, 06:47:17 pm »
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OK... my basic point is that if the president had acted on jobs and housing and gotten the good-will of the American people, it could have made a) passing healthcare easier and b) made the 2010 midterms a little less bloody for the Dems.

In fact that was my view at the time.

If you're responding to my long thing above, the comment was directed at the article, not you. Smiley
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« Reply #10 on: June 13, 2012, 06:50:18 pm »
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OK... my basic point is that if the president had acted on jobs and housing and gotten the good-will of the American people, it could have made a) passing healthcare easier and b) made the 2010 midterms a little less bloody for the Dems.

In fact that was my view at the time.

If you're responding to my long thing above, the comment was directed at the article, not you. Smiley

I knew that, I just wanted to put my comments in context with yours.
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« Reply #11 on: June 13, 2012, 10:41:42 pm »
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One gets the impression that most of the posters in this thread didn't actually read/consider the article, but are merely regurgitating talking points... sigh.

As to the article I'm largely in agreement, and felt the same way in 2009. It was a massive selfnuking by the administration to not pass their tax cuts separately and first.

One wonders how a public option would have faired if they'd tried to pass it alone, perhaps in early 2010. Of course it didn't have enough support in the senate as part of Obamacare... but if Obama had made a major push for independently through a SOTU speech while enjoying a substantially higher approval rating, I think some blue dogs(and maybe even the Maine Senators) might have caved, given how popular the public option is in polls. Failing that I'm fairly sure a stand alone public option could have been forced through by the reconciliation process.
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« Reply #12 on: June 13, 2012, 11:09:37 pm »
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Isn't Sean Trende just one of those Republican hacks on RCP who tries to use stats and mathematical prowess to hide his hackery? A somewhat classier, less enraging Jay Cost.
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« Reply #13 on: June 13, 2012, 11:24:01 pm »
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Obama was't as clueless as McCain, but he did vastly underestimate the magnitude of the recession. He really should have passed another stimulus in late 2009, or passed a bigger one in the first place. The Democrats squandered basically their entire time they had 60 Senators by working on the watered down health care reform bill. People like Senator Dorgan said, health care reform is important too, but the economy should be the number one priority. Dorgan didn't want to have to explain to North Dakota voters why Obama didn't make the economy the number one priority, and so he retired.
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« Reply #14 on: June 14, 2012, 04:16:30 am »
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Isn't Sean Trende just one of those Republican hacks on RCP who tries to use stats and mathematical prowess to hide his hackery? A somewhat classier, less enraging Jay Cost.
Care to explain what is so hackish about his suggestion?
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muon2
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« Reply #15 on: June 14, 2012, 06:04:01 am »
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One gets the impression that most of the posters in this thread didn't actually read/consider the article, but are merely regurgitating talking points... sigh.

As to the article I'm largely in agreement, and felt the same way in 2009. It was a massive selfnuking by the administration to not pass their tax cuts separately and first.


I think this was a more insightful part of Trende's piece, not the part on the potential second stimulus. The stimulus as passed was perceived by the public as a jobs bill for "shovel-ready" projects. That was only a small part of the actual bill so it isn't surprising that many of the public were underwhelmed by the jobs created given the magnitude of the spending. Here's the breakdown chart from wikipedia.



The bill was not going to garner much GOP support, and the tax cut and infrastructure pieces weren't going to have as much opposition as the health and education spending components. A split could have been very helpful in framing the debate with tax cuts and infrastructure right out of the box. Education support and job training as well as housing support could have happened after Franken was seated. The healthcare and Medicaid components could have been made part of the later healthcare bill. If the state Medicaid relief was also part of that healthcare bill it would have put many of the GOP opposition states in a box on the overall healthcare bill.
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« Reply #16 on: June 14, 2012, 07:12:19 am »
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Anything Obama did would have been "controversial." The GOP made sure of that. Obama's mistake was wasting time trying to work with them. Any fool could see they weren't interested.
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« Reply #17 on: June 14, 2012, 09:52:28 am »
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Anything Obama did would have been "controversial." The GOP made sure of that. Obama's mistake was wasting time trying to work with them. Any fool could see they weren't interested.

How much "time" did Obama spend trying to work with Republicans after telling them "I won"?  Minutes?  Surely not hours.

Historians and social scientists in the future will have to analyze the madness that seized so many Americans who thought this guy -- who was the author of zero "hope and change" as a state or U.S. senator -- was going to get a complete personality transplant and be a real reformer in the White House.

"Let's elect as President the guy with the most far-Left voting record of our Senate caucus, a guy who never found any corruption in Chicago that bothered him, a guy with no experience ever at compromising with anyone, a guy whose only executive experience was to rain money on teachers unions as part of the Annenberg Project ...  What could go wrong?"

If only Obama had taken my single piece of advice to him upon his inauguration, he'd be a shoo-in for re-election today:  "Tell Pelosi and Reid not to bring you a single piece of legislation to sign that didn't get the votes of at least 10% of the Republicans".  Instead, he let Nancy and Harry make him sign bills that got the minimum number of votes to pass, losing even moderate Democrats whose "no" votes still couldn't save them from being crushed in the 2010 midterms!

Obama said he wanted to be like Reagan -- but he did everything the opposite of Reagan, and I'm not talking about policy grounds at all. 

Reagan's signature economic reform in 1981 was his "Economic Recovery Tax Act" (ERTA).  He campaigned on it.  Do you know what the vote on it was?  Was it a party line vote?

Senate:  68 yea, 9 nay
House:  323 yea, 107 nay


That was in a Senate with 46 Democrats and a House with 255 Democrats!

How did he do it?  Democrats seem to think all Reagan had was good looks and charm.  That's idiotic.  (They make the same mistake about Sarah Palin -- who was loved by Alaska Democrats because of her independence from Alaska's "good ol' boy" GOP machine and from Big Oil until she became McCain's running mate; but I digress.)

An excellent analysis of how Reagan passed ERTA -- the centerpiece of "the Reagan Revolution" -- with overwhelming bi-partisan support is found at http://publishing.cdlib.org/ucpressebooks/view?docId=ft5d5nb36w&chunk.id=d0e5140&toc.id=d0e5140&brand=ucpress

(Note the author of the article is anti-ERTA, as the title suggests, "Starving the Public Sector: The Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981".)

The short analysis is this:

1.  Reagan compromised!  He campaigned for a (1) 30% and (2) immediate tax rate cut.  He settled for (1) 25% which was (2) spread out over years (5% in 1981, 10% in 1982, and 10% in 1983).

2.  Reagan made the deal palatable to Democrats by letting them add all sorts of sweeteners for their own campaign contributors.  From the article:

Tip O'Neill mused that "when they had the pure Kemp-Roth and the 10-5-3 we had them licked and they knew we had them licked. But where we made our mistake was … in allowing them to get the information of what was in our bill … the sweeteners…. They took the goodies that were under our table [and put them in the GOP bill]...."[31]

The Senate adopted 80 of 118 proposed amendments to the Finance Committee bill, creating a beautiful Christmas tree. These ranged from lowering the minimum corporation tax rate to a one-time $1,500 credit for adoption of certain disadvantaged children to a $10 credit for each pecan tree planted in South Alabama to replace each one blown down by Hurricane Frederick in 1979.[60] In short, the Senate adopted many amendments serving many ends.

The administration's July 23 agreements, about which Conable now had more of a say (some wags suggested calling it "Hance-Conable 2"), included special provisions ranging from sops for gypsy moths (tax credits for rehabilitating old buildings and for woodburning stoves) to a credit for investing in television shows...


Reagan was smart.  Obama was, and is, dumb.  Reagan knew that legislation, like sausage-making, is an ugly business.  Reagan kept his eyes on the prize -- a dramatic lowering of marginal income tax rates -- and let the Democrats have everything else they wanted.  If Obama had done the same with his Stimulus, Financial Reform, and Health Care bills, he'd be coasting to re-election right now!

For those who would say, "Oh, well if we let the Republicans participate on those bills, the reforms would have been far too modest", let me point out something:  ERTA only lowered the top marginal income tax rate to 50%.  Yes, you read that right, the "moderate" reform that got overwhelming Democratic backing lowered the rate to a level that today would be politically impossible to raise it to!  By compromising, Reagan won a permanent victory.
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« Reply #18 on: June 14, 2012, 10:19:42 am »
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Are you seriously blaming Obama for the fact that Republicans wouldn't listen to him? Their stated intent was to avoid compromise; just look at Mourdock.
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« Reply #19 on: June 14, 2012, 10:37:32 am »
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Are you seriously blaming Obama for the fact that Republicans wouldn't listen to him? Their stated intent was to avoid compromise; just look at Mourdock.

What was he saying that they should have listened to?

Face it:   Obama -- like most people who learned their politics in college pizza parties and faculty lounges -- is a total stranger to compromise.  He cannot do it.  He couldn't even vote to make doctors try to save born children who survived abortions.  He couldn't vote to let Bush raise the debt ceiling.  Compromise is utterly foreign to his DNA.   As John Boehner has said about negotiating with Obama, "You can't get him to 'Yes'". 

Reagan let the Democrats "water down" every one of his major policy bills so long as core principles were maintained (e.g., marginal rates could never rise).  Clinton signed whatever Gingrich and Dole put in front of him so long as certain principles were maintained (notably requiring the expansion of the coverage of the Community Reinvestment Act as a condition of signing the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999). 

The guy with the most far-Left voting record in the U.S. Senate -- and who may still hold the record for "present" votes in the Illinois lege -- went to the White House and acted like a Senator, as though nothing had really changed to make him more malleable as President than he had been as a legislator.

His arrogance and intransigence resulted in the biggest midterm losses for his party in generations but he acts like he had nothing to do with it (just as he says now that he had nothing to do with the deficits).  He was arrogant (stupid?) enough to tell Sen. Webb in 2010 not to worry about a repeat of 1994 because, "This time you have me."  This is a guy who probably literally believes that his rise to power really did mark the day the oceans ceased to rise and the planet began to heal! 

He's going to get buried in November and the sad thing is, he won't have a clue why.
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« Reply #20 on: June 14, 2012, 12:54:31 pm »
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Anything Obama did would have been "controversial." The GOP made sure of that. Obama's mistake was wasting time trying to work with them. Any fool could see they weren't interested.

That wasn't true for the first 6 months. Most of the GOP officials were taken aback at the magnitude of Obama's victory and his win in states like IN and NC. There was substantial fear that total obstruction would be met with more electoral losses. It was only in the August 09 recess at local town hall meetings that the Tea Party showed it's strength pushing back against those members who sought to compromise with the WH. The August recess also marked the decline in productivity of the bipartisan six Senators working on a compromise on health care reform.

Given that timeline, I still think that Trende's insight that a split stimulus might have been played better is worth consideration.
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« Reply #21 on: June 14, 2012, 01:01:39 pm »
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Quote
What Obama should have done in 2009

tempered expectations for pace of recovery.
sold, at every turn, idea of government intervention to push recovery along.
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« Reply #22 on: June 14, 2012, 03:28:39 pm »
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Given the way things played out in '09, I tend to think that an attempt to split stimulus into a series of successive bills that frontloaded tax cuts and tried to get other pieces in through later bills would have led to either the Democrats in House and Senate not getting on board (the mostly likely response to such an idea had it been entertained at the time) or the passing of the first one or two of the pieces of legislation and the rest failing in a lot of very public wrangling and making very loud thuds when they hit the ground.  I'm skeptical of how that would have helped Obama create a different sort of "narrative" or made him look any more like a leader.

It's easy to argue that Obama should have held his guns on health care reform or taken an incremental approach in hindsight.  But I think the tenuous nature of the the 60 votes in the Senate accompanied by the insistence of liberal Dems who had helped Obama get elected combined with the fact that comprehensive health care reform is one of the biggest elephants in the room when it comes to the economic future of the U.S. all conspired to push into the front of the line.

I kind of take it as an object lesson in wave elections that result in effective supermajorities.  It puts the incumbent in the debt of so many people who hopped in his ship, and in exchange, they demand to drive the boat for a while.  There is, in the meantime, too little incentive to sit down with everyone in crafting good legislation, and the compromises that do get made in the process tend to be directed at the wishes of the most influential committee members (the tax cuts in the stimulus largely came at Grassley's urging, but they had very little if any stimulative effect and Grassley in the end didn't even vote for the bill--having gotten what he wanted, he reserved the right to campaign against it later!), and so those compromises lead to further legislative incoherence.  It doesn't help, of course, that Obama didn't know then, and doesn't know yet, how to create sensible long-term economic policies.  All the same, the somewhat unexpectedly dire nature of the crisis combined with the structural demons that effective supermajorities give birth to led to some quite unfortunate results.  Results like this come about through the deeds of more than just one person, even when that one person is the president.   
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« Reply #23 on: June 14, 2012, 05:15:06 pm »
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Well, we'll never know what an Obama Presidency that had even a fraction of the "radical left" influence that the opposing side accuses it of embodying would have been like. Tongue
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« Reply #24 on: June 14, 2012, 07:44:43 pm »
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Anything Obama did would have been "controversial." The GOP made sure of that. Obama's mistake was wasting time trying to work with them. Any fool could see they weren't interested.

That wasn't true for the first 6 months. Most of the GOP officials were taken aback at the magnitude of Obama's victory and his win in states like IN and NC. There was substantial fear that total obstruction would be met with more electoral losses. It was only in the August 09 recess at local town hall meetings that the Tea Party showed it's strength pushing back against those members who sought to compromise with the WH. The August recess also marked the decline in productivity of the bipartisan six Senators working on a compromise on health care reform.

Given that timeline, I still think that Trende's insight that a split stimulus might have been played better is worth consideration.
Not a single House Republican voted for the recovery act. That was in February 2009. The GOP had no intention of playing ball.
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