Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 19, 2008

EMANUEL VOWS TO 'THROW LONG AND DEEP'.... My biggest concern about Rahm Emanuel becoming the next White House chief of staff is his record of incrementalism.

With that in mind, it was hard not to find his comments yesterday very encouraging. Talking to a group of CEOs and business leaders, Emanuel said incremental changes wouldn't be enough, and urged his audience to work with the Obama administration's push for universal health care.

"When it gets rough out there, a lot of business leaders get out of the car and say, 'We're OK with minor reform.' I'm challenging you today, we're going to have to do big, serious things," Rahm Emanuel said, speaking to The Wall Street Journal's CEO Council, a conference convened to elicit corporate opinion on the challenges facing the new president. [...]

Mr. Emanuel promised that a major economic stimulus would be "the first order of business" for Mr. Obama when he takes office Jan. 20. The focus of spending will be on infrastructure, specifically "green infrastructure," which he said would include mass transit, upgraded electricity transmission lines, "smart" electrical meters that allow consumers to save money by using electricity at off-peak hours, and universal broadband Internet access, which he said would encourage telecommuting.

He stressed that the new administration would "throw long and deep," taking advantage of the economic crisis to push wholesale changes in health care, taxes, financial re-regulation and energy. "The American people in two successive elections have voted for change, and change cannot be allowed to die on the doorsteps of Washington," Mr. Emanuel said.

The Wall Street Journal posted the video of Emanuel's remarks.

Greg Sargent noted, "While the devil will of course be in the details, the fact that Rahm himself is setting the bar very high for the incoming administration's expected health care reform efforts is welcome."

Quite right. This didn't sound like an incrementalist, promising to go slow and work around the edges; it sounded like someone ready to help the president make real changes real soon.

The reports didn't indicate how Emanuel's remarks were received by the business audience, but they have every reason to get onboard with the Obama agenda, especially on health care.

Steve Benen 12:30 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (18)

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I suspect that many businessmen like Bush tax cuts, limited oversight on safety, pollution, accounting etc. and high tolerance for near monopolistic mergers. That said, I also suspect they realize a nation of poor people doesn't make for a great economy (read: high profitablity for them). They'll probably go along until he asks them to ante up.

Posted by: Danp on November 19, 2008 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

My, my, my -- we've certainly become Villagers, haven't we?

"I'm concerned" with this; "I'm concerned" with that.

So much Monday morning quarterbacking begs a question -- does anyone think President-Elect Obama might actually know what he wants? What he's doing?

It's like the tagline for a movie: Democrats in Power -- We're All David Brooks Now.

Posted by: Hemlock for Gadflies on November 19, 2008 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

As mentioned to the point of abuse by many writers of bad espionage/thriller novels, the Chinese character of crisis is a merger of the characters danger and opportunity.

Damn right. Many of the obstacles are already down or much lower than they used to be:
1) Wall St can't bitch about the cost since they got a trillion dollars in bailout money which can pay for Universal HC several times over.
2) The Health Insurance companies will put up a fight, but they donated heavily to the Repubs. Plus they don't have as many resources to dedicate for the fight as they got hit hard by the Wall St meltdown too.
3) Most RW economic policy is shredded thanks to the Credit Crunch. They have no intellectual or moral ground anymore.

I think they won't take this without a fight, but it seems a lot less daunting than it was when Hils led the fight in the early 90s.

Posted by: Former Dan on November 19, 2008 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK
mass transit, upgraded electricity transmission lines, "smart" electrical meters that allow consumers to save money by using electricity at off-peak hours, and universal broadband Internet access....
Wow. If the administration can actually get all of that, it would be a fabulous start.
Posted by: Rieux on November 19, 2008 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

I can't muster any enthusiasm for the upcoming push for health care reform. Obama's approach to health care is too incremental and pragmatic and won't allow the savings possible with a single payer system. The electorate isn't ready for what will really work and benefit our society, therefore there is not enough pressure to overcome the power of health care special interests.

Posted by: d on November 19, 2008 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

I'm afraid it's gonna be tough to do much of anything with the economy in ruins... too bad Bush pissed it all away in Iraq.

Posted by: Buford on November 19, 2008 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

I'm getting the feeling that the new administration will be like none we've seen in recent history. Maybe ever.

Consider that even before he takes office, he has

1) Prepared to roll back hundreds of harmful Bush executive orders from Day One.

2) Announced to the world in no uncertain terms that once he takes office the U.S. will once again take the lead in global environmental affairs for the positive benefit of all humanity.

3) Sent his new chief of staff to put the business community on notice that he is hitting the ground with barbed wire and bayonets to get this country moving in the right direction again.

God, I love it when the grown-ups are in charge.

Posted by: Curmudgeon on November 19, 2008 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

My biggest concern about Rahm Emanuel becoming the next White House chief of staff is his record of incrementalism.

Yeah, but his BOSS kicks major ass. Go Obama!

Posted by: Juan del Llano on November 19, 2008 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

My biggest concern about Rahm Emanuel becoming the next White House chief of staff is his record of incrementalism. -- Benen

a) What Juan said, above -- Emanuel isn't his own man anymore; he's taking orders from Obama.
b) maybe even Emanuel can see that, when the poultices don't work any more, a radical surgery is indicated. IOW, the boil needs to be lanced.

Posted by: exlibra on November 19, 2008 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Ballet dancers should avoid sports metaphors, "throw long and deep" is redundant.

Posted by: Th on November 19, 2008 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

A lot of people were concerned before the election that Obama would be too cautious, too centrist and too bipartisan to push for real reforms. I think they were mistaken.

I think Obama is too pragmatic to promise bold reforms where he thinks they will fail, but is opportunistic enough to push for more than he has promised when changing conditions make that possible.

The combination of a broader than expected Electoral College victory, big Democratic gains in Congress and the current economic crisis may open the door for such initiatives.

Certainly there has been none of the backtracking and reducing of expectations that some of the more cynical were predicting we would see him engage in during the transition period.

Posted by: tanstaafl on November 19, 2008 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

I've never understood why business wouldn't WANT to pass health care over to the government.

The cost of providing health care to US employees (and retirees) makes it cheaper to assemble cars in Canada, where wages are actually HIGHER.

Get out of the business, save yourselves money, and find that your workforce stays because they want to work there, and not for the "benefits." You'll be rewarded by more productive, cooperative employees.

Posted by: Cal Gal on November 19, 2008 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

I've never understood why business wouldn't WANT to pass health care over to the government.

Because most of the largest businesses are headed by Harvard Business School graduates who have been taught that anything worth doing, the market does it best? And that if you let the government get a toe in the door anywhere, the next thing you know they're nationalizing the means of production and staging a glorious workers revolution?

Don't assume that all of the ideologues are in politics. Many of these guys would cut their own noses off rather than admit that there was something that collective action through government intervention can accomplish better than the God of the Invisible Hand can manage.

Posted by: NonyNony on November 19, 2008 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

Thaky you, Th, I had been wondering whether you could throw "short and deep" or "long and shallow." Redundant it is. Or maybe just normal sportcaster blather.

Posted by: David in NY on November 19, 2008 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

NonyNony, I suspect you are right but am hoping some of them will outgrow that childishness to realize that sometimes government action is in their best interests even when that doesn't mean simply handing big business big piles of cash.

Posted by: tanstaafl on November 19, 2008 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

Stepping up to the plate a la Alexander Haig sounds like. That's chutzpah.

Posted by: Luther on November 19, 2008 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK
I've never understood why business wouldn't WANT to pass health care over to the government.

Everyone gets bad deals under the current system, but big businesses get deals that are less bad than small businesses (and far less bad than individuals striking out on their own), which makes health care a competitive advantage for big business in attracting talent. So, government taking care of healthcare in an egalitarian fashion would make big businesses more vulnerable to competition from smaller businesses.

Furthermore, employer dependent health insurance makes people less willing to just up and leave their job, even if they have enough cash to pay for routine expenses for a while, and the more dependent people are on their jobs, the more able capital is to capture the value produced and provide very little to labor.

Posted by: cmdicely on November 19, 2008 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

Wonder if Emanuel's attitude towards healthcare has anything to do with this dad being a physician.

Posted by: warren terrah on November 19, 2008 at 10:53 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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