Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 25, 2008

OBAMA'S BUDGET TEAM.... Yesterday, the president-elect introduced his economic team. This afternoon, Barack Obama returned to the podium to announce his budget team: Peter Orszag as the director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Robert Nabors as the deputy director. They're pretty impressive folks who'll no doubt serve the nation well.

One thing that came up during the brief event in Chicago is Obama's intention to cut wasteful spending from the budget.

"[I]f we're going to make the investments we need, we must also be willing to shed the spending we don't. In these challenging times, when we are facing both rising deficits and a sinking economy, budget reform is not an option. It is an imperative. We cannot sustain a system that bleeds billions of taxpayer dollars on programs that have outlived their usefulness, or exist solely because of the power of a politician, lobbyist, or interest group. We simply cannot afford it.

"This isn't about big government or small government. It's about building a smarter government that focuses on what works. That is why I will ask my team to think anew and act anew to meet our new challenges. We will go through our federal budget -- page by page, line by line -- eliminating those programs we don't need, and insisting that those we do operate in a sensible cost-effective way."

Given that the times call for increased government spending, what is Obama planning to cut? He offered an example: "There's a report today that from 2003 to 2006, millionaire farmers received $49 million in crop subsidies even though they were earning more than the $2.5 million cutoff for such subsidies. If this is true, it is a prime example of the kind of waste I intend to end as President."

Responding to some questions from reporters, Obama added that he'd earned "a mandate to move the country in a new direction and not continue the same old practices that have gotten us into the fix we are in." He added, however, that "we enter into the administration with a sense of humility and a recognition that wisdom is not the monopoly of any political party."

Sounding another pragmatic note, Obama also said, "I think what the American people want more than anything is just commonsense, smart government. They don't want ideology, they don't want bickering."

And if an ambitious, progressive policy agenda just happens to look like commonsense, smart, non-ideological government, so be it.

Steve Benen 1:10 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (36)

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Comments

Nice verbage BUT I'll await the actual follow through before I start cheering & jumping up & down with joy.

Show Us !

"...it's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine..." - REM

Posted by: daCascadian on November 25, 2008 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

This man is proving day by day, that he is a dynamic leader who instills confidence. As the missus said " he is doing for the country not for the gain of his cronies like the current occupant"

Posted by: John R on November 25, 2008 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

And the reason a farmer earning, say, $2.499 million a year is eligible for subsidies is, um, what, exactly?

While they're at it, they should lower that subsidy ceiling, too, by about 90%.

Posted by: gradysu on November 25, 2008 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

This man is proving day by day, that he is a dynamic leader who instills confidence.

Absolutely.

Show Us !

He is.

"...it's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine..." - REM

Most. Overrated. Band. Ever.

Posted by: Screamin' Demon on November 25, 2008 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

One thing I find a bit troubling frankly:

Conservatives like Pat Buchanan are impressed with Obama's choices thus far. Yesterday, Buchanan indicated this is actually a 'right of center' team.

Is this true? Yikes..

I suppose with the economy the way it is, we need some good tried and true experts. But, well, where will the fresh liberal faces be?

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

And what of the backing off of the tax cuts for the rich?

Posted by: Concerns: Pat Buchanan likes this? on November 25, 2008 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

And the reason a farmer earning, say, $2.499 million a year is eligible for subsidies is, um, what, exactly?

I have a cousin who's being paid not to grow wheat. He's a Republican and a Rush Limbaugh fan. I'd say something to him about welfare for the rich, but the irony would be lost on him.

Posted by: Screamin' Demon on November 25, 2008 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Hang on to your hats and your ass. This old boy is going to take us for a ride! I will tell you if I like it in two years.

Posted by: EC Sedgwick on November 25, 2008 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

And if an ambitious, progressive policy agenda just happens to look like commonsense, smart, non-ideological government, so be it.

Good to see someone gets it. Obama's not abandoning progressive policies for centrism; he's just re-framing progressive policies in centrist terms. It's a smart move.

Posted by: Darius on November 25, 2008 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Hard to know where to begin.

I'd say lop off 90% of the defense budget.

Then get rid of career "do-nothings" who populate 75% of federal jobs.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on November 25, 2008 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

A good place for Obama and his people to start is by looking up Ben Cohen's (of Ben and Jerry's) Sensible Priorities campaign. Cohen claims that merely by cutting redundant weapons programs (Defensefare, yet another welfare program for the rich) and downsizing our nuclear defenses (we now have 100 times the nuclear capability of Russia, the next largest nuclear power) we can completely fund the rest of the budget. Add that to the tax-cuts-for-the-rich and crop supports for Republican "farmers" who never grow anything, and that tunnel light just got brighter.

But what will Obama really do? As others have observed, maybe he'll just Clinton out. He seems to have the team for it.

As the right doesn't need Reaganite solutions, the country as a whole doesn't need ideas coming from Reagan, Clinton or, it goes without saying, Bush, and we never did. We just got them, leading to our present state of dysfunction.

And second the comment on REM. Their feeling good about the end of the world never gave me any confidence.

Posted by: ericfree on November 25, 2008 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

REM. Their feeling good about the end of the world never gave me any confidence.

But their profane bitterness toward Republicans in "Ignoreland" should have reassured you that they had it pretty well figured out.

And not to threadjack with the music thing, but it would hard for anyone with their hype to not be overrated in some sense. Really, though, "Begin the Begin" is simply sublime. As is the aforementioned "Ignoreland."

Posted by: zeitgeist on November 25, 2008 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

And second the comment on REM. Their feeling good about the end of the world never gave me any confidence.

Woah, woah, woah there. That song is overrated, and heavily overplayed, but the band justly earned their accolades.

Posted by: dob on November 25, 2008 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

Obama gave an example of why he is going to work to reduce unnecessary programs. The example was a news story, not the content of the story, just the fact that reporters are able to uncover waste and print it.

If he takes the position that he wants to go after this kind of waste, which is sometimes hidden, sometimes due to corruption and sometimes due to lack of oversight, these stories don't become an embarrassment, they become something helpful. If people don't get in trouble for telling reporters about this type of waste, they may be more willing to use internal channels to uncover these programs before they become front-page news.

A big part of making government work is simply wanting to make it work and not being afraid to admit mistakes. That's a big change.

Posted by: tomj on November 25, 2008 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

William Greider is quite critical of Obama's economics team here. Pretty scary really. I still have some 'hope' but it's getting harder to summon by the day.

Past and Future, Greider

Posted by: nepeta on November 25, 2008 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

Regardless as to whether you agree or not with Mr. Obama's choices, what I am seeing is a responsible adult who is moving with methodical determination unlike the current asshole who occupies the White House.

I for one am impressed and proud so far. I haven't felt this way about our government in a long time and the man is not even in power yet.

Posted by: fred on November 25, 2008 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

Does this mean we can finally stop wasting money on missile defense/Star Wars/SDI? Please?

Posted by: Jurgan on November 25, 2008 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

Politicians are good at campaigning and politicking, but rarely good at governing.

We might just have a once in a lifetime exception here in Obama. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

Hey, I'm an old guy and I like REM, so that oughta end that debate. And let's hope it is the end of the Reagan era, because we can't survive any more of it.

Posted by: hark on November 25, 2008 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

Wouldn't ending the bailout of GM, Chrysler, and Ford save more money than that? It's certainly wasteful federal spending.

Political and economic Ideology is a system of beliefs about what works and what doesn't work. Why would you want policy devoid of ideology?

The 20th and 21st centuries have provided a number of tests of Keynes' idea that increased government spending at the onset of a recession could blunt the recession. Keynes neglected to specify how government agents would make wiser spending choices than the successful agents in the market. The record has been that these government interventions, including Hoover Dam (at the time called Boulder Dam), the New Deal, and the Japanese construction effort in the 90s, haven't worked.

Obama is the most ideologically committed president-elect since Coolidge. He believes in the ideologies that have failed. To call him either "smart" or "non-ideological" at this time is at best premature, and probably wrong.

Posted by: marketeer on November 25, 2008 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

Screamin' Demon >"...He is...."

No he hasn`t.

All that has transpired is that he has gained the right to be legally anointed TopMonkey January 20th & he has named a few heads that will be some of his bureacratic warriors (SubordinateMonkeys). Once actually in charge then he MIGHT actually do things that are necessary. Or he may not.

We shall see what rubber meets what road in what ways.

Screamin' Demon >"...Most. Overrated. Band. Ever."

Yawn

Who cares if you like some band or not ? All I care about is their statement of fact.

The Old Way has died and "We the people..." are moving ahead irrespective of the heads that some president puts in charge of some bureaucratic office. The Era of the NationState as the sole source of political legitimacy is over. Bye, bye Treaty of Westphalia !

Wake up. REM did a long time ago.

"...it's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine..." - REM

Posted by: daCascadian on November 25, 2008 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

It's about building a smarter government that focuses on what works.

The economy is made by the people who make it. That may sound redundant or tautological, but it's just a reminder that the economy is not something like the planetary system that we mostly just observe. It focuses on the people who make the economy the most, unlike the worthy people in the IRS. (I don't mean "worthy" to be ironic, because they do an important job, but they don't do much to create the economy.) Entrepreneurs, inventors, engineers, farmers, investors do more to create the economy than mental hospital inpatients, beggars, thieves, and third-generation welfare recipients.

What works?

It doesn't "work" (at least not to grow the economy) to take money away from successful individuals and business and give it to unsuccessful individuals and businesses. Yet that is what is happening with the bailouts, and that is what Obama intends to do more of.

FDR's interventions in the economy did not work, yet that is the model that Obama has said he intends to follow. Why does anybody think that Obama can make those interventions work any better than FDR made them work?

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on November 25, 2008 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

I have not been sympathetic to the Detroit bailout before, but I have to say that CitiGroup has made me argue for Detroit despite myself.

How is it that Citi gets $45B in direct infusion plus guarantees on $300B in bad assets without ever being publicly flogged from private jets or having to bring in a new business plan to prove they "get it," while Detroit -- all 3 majors plus scores of suppliers -- have to jump through a dozen embarassments to get $25B? It sure looks like it pays to be white collar instead of blue collar.

Posted by: zeitgeist on November 25, 2008 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

We will go through our federal budget -- page by page, line by line -- eliminating those programs we don't need ... .

He seems not to anticipate any role for Congress to play in this process.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on November 25, 2008 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

"I have a cousin who's being paid not to grow wheat. He's a Republican and a Rush Limbaugh fan. I'd say something to him about welfare for the rich, but the irony would be lost on him."

Strange as it initially sounds this is the RIGHT type of program. It is good for the soil & environment, and it helps to stabilize food prices.
However, under the current program most farmers are just paid a flat amount regardless for every acre they plant. Result soil is f*cked (it needs to lie fallow or be rotated for health) and commodity prices tank, which kicks off a vicious cycle of farmers planting more and more land while making almost no money and supermarkets are flooded with unhealthy processed food, and our crops are sold dirt cheap in 3rd world countries driving their farmers off the land.

Posted by: eden on November 25, 2008 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

I'd like to cast my vote for an end to the War on Drugs.

Anyone know how much has been and is being squandered?

Posted by: jharp on November 25, 2008 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

Not enough credit is being given to the high gas prices this past year and it's serious damage on our economy and society. That one factor alone has caused serious stress in both individuals and businesses. A record number of homes and jobs have been lost as a direct result. And, while we are doing the happy dance around the lower prices at the pumps OPEC is announcing cuts to manipulate the prices upward again. We must get on with becoming energy independent.We can't take another year like this past. There is a wonderful new book out about the energy crisis and what it would take for America to become energy independent. It covers every aspect of oil, what it's uses are besides gasoline, our reserves, our depletion of it. Every type of alternative energy is covered and it's potential to replace oil. He even has proposed legislative agenda's that would be necessary to implement these changes along with time frames. This book is profoundly informative and our country needs to become more informed and move forward with becoming energy independent. Green technology would not only provide clean cheap energy it would create millions of badly needed new jobs. The Book is called The Manhattan Project of 2009 Energy Independence NOW. Our politicians all need to read this book. www.themanhattanprojectof2009.com


Posted by: sherry on November 25, 2008 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

Ouch.... another talking point taken away from the Republicans.

As the Senator in a previous post lamented about not being able to hang a few labels around the Democrats' necks...

Add "wasteful spending" and "pork barrel" to the list of Democratic virtues, instead of the age-old pretend Republican talking points, but never implemented.

Posted by: bruno on November 25, 2008 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

Sign me up for no more subsidies to corporations for moving jobs overseas.

And here's MY band quote:

"When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed." Talking Heads

Saw them live and free at UC Berkeley the day Moscone and Milk were killed. A day that lives in memory for two completely opposite feelings, united by the song Psycho Killer.

Posted by: Cal Gal on November 25, 2008 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

Matthew Marler: The economy is made by the people who make it. That may sound redundant or tautological

It does, and is typical of most of your commentary.

Let's revisit what a genius you are on economic issues. And I don't mean poring through the dozens of hyper posts wherein you say that the free market will solve all of our problems, particularly energy dependency. That would be too easy, and people can google that easily enough.

I mean the out and out fingers-in-your-ears out denialist that you are when it comes to economic realities that fly in the face of your politics. To wit, here is Matthew Marler just eighteen months ago:

It's looking as though the federal deficit will come to under 1% of GDP this year, and may be a surplus by the time the next president is sworn in. However, Democrat presidential candidates are promising to work for significant increases in federal spending (at least Edwards is), and Democrats in Congress are proposing to cut the AMT, which mostly affects people in the upper 20% or so of the income distribution -- people who are more "upper" than "upper middle".

the recession following the Bush-Clinton boom was unusually short and shallow, and the recovery has been modest (compared to the bottom of the slump) by historical standards as well. It's an exciting time. I can hardly wait to finde out where America's companies invest all of their record profits. As you know, I am rooting for substantially increased investment in domestic energy and fuel supplies.

MatthewRmarler on May 11, 2007 at 10:23 PM | PERMALINK

Bwa ha fucking ha. Yes, it's all federal surpluses and hydrogen cars and record profits, isn't it? Quite the boom time we're having.

You have been outed by your own comments as a Class A moron, someone who neither understands economics nor even cares to talk about them without resorting to the most childish kind of Fox News surrealistic partisan rhetoric.

I really hope you're going to brazen enough to continue posting this shit about how Obama is going to be the failure that FDR was and curiously Bush was not, because it both provides future material for me to humiliate you with as well as opportunities to showcase your dazzling analysis from the past.

Posted by: trex on November 25, 2008 at 5:04 PM | PERMALINK

OK. By now, the thread's been "dead" so long, that "I'm singing but to the Muses and myself" (to use a quote from an old Polish poem). But, as someone who absolutely adores language (not any particular one. Just the tool that's common to all humans) I couldn't resist this:

"This isn't about big government or small government. It's about building a smarter government [...] -- Obama

The man is a genius with words. And, having once discovered a pitch-perfect -- and working -- formula (skeleton), he's not shy about tinkering with it, just a teeny bit, and dressing it in different togs.

The above quote has the same basic "skeleton" as his quotes about the Iraq war (I'm not against all wars; I'm against stupid ones) and about America (it's not about blue America and red America; it's about the United States of America).

I've heard professional writers/poets cannibalising their own works with lesser skill...

Posted by: exlibra on November 25, 2008 at 8:41 PM | PERMALINK

Disappointing is the best description for Obama's economics team. I agree with this quote from today's NYT editorial (e.g., Both men have played central roles in policies that helped provoke today’s financial crisis.).

On Geithner:
Mr. Geithner, currently the president of the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, also has helped shape the Bush administration’s erratic and often inscrutable responses to the current financial meltdown, up to and including this past weekend’s multibillion-dollar bailout of Citigroup.

On Summers:
As treasury secretary in 2000, Mr. Summers championed the law that deregulated derivatives, the financial instruments — a k a toxic assets — that have spread the financial losses from reckless lending around the globe. He refused to heed the critics who warned of dangers to come.

That law, still on the books, reinforced the false belief that markets would self-regulate. And it gave the Bush administration cover to ignore the ever-spiraling risks posed by derivatives and inadequate supervision.

Not a good start in meeting the most crucial test facing Obama and the nation.

Posted by: DevilDog on November 25, 2008 at 10:03 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, it's all federal surpluses and hydrogen cars and record profits, isn't it? Quite the boom time we're having.

In May 2007 the energy companies did have record profits, and that continued until the oil price bubble burst, though energy company profits have hardly collapsed. right now, record amounts of investments in solar (even in Michigan), wind and biofuels developments are in fact underway. Even investments in hydrogen vehicles and fuel delivery are at record levels -- although starting from a tiny base. Investments in new drilling are still stifled, at least in the areas where the energy companies think the most oil is to be found.

Too bad about the Big 3 automakers tanking, but that isn't exactly news.

It's looking as though the federal deficit will come to under 1% of GDP this year, and may be a surplus by the time the next president is sworn in.

Shucks. that isn't going to happen. In 2007 Republicans were still trying to re-regulate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to no avail, opposed by the Democrats. Bush inherited a recession and is passing on a recession. Obama is promising to spend money at an even faster rate than the Bush administration has been. I would hope that he has more success, but I doubt it. We'll see.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on November 25, 2008 at 11:43 PM | PERMALINK

And I don't mean poring through the dozens of hyper posts wherein you say that the free market will solve all of our problems, particularly energy dependency.

I advocated federal subsidies of all energy sources and fuel supplies. I even wrote that where actual problems have been solved, the solutions have always been market/government cooperations, as with the interstate highway system: federally funded off taxes on fuel purchases from private companies, built by private companies.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on November 25, 2008 at 11:51 PM | PERMALINK

We will go through our federal budget -- page by page, line by line -- eliminating those programs we don't need, and insisting that those we do operate in a sensible cost-effective way.

Do you think anything will be eliminated? Even $1billion in unneeded programs?

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on November 26, 2008 at 12:04 AM | PERMALINK

Bush inherited a recession and is passing on a recession blah blah blah

I believe the correct answer is, "You got me, I don't ever know what the hell I'm talking about, and when I'm caught I dance around and point to irrelevancies to desperately try and pretend I know something about anything."

The issue is quite simply this: in 2007 we were correctly observing that the economy was going to hell in a handbasket and you were claiming otherwise.

Once more you were catastrophically wrong.

Bush is not passing along a recession but a depression, one that he and his Republican cronies and banking contributors helped set up without any help from anyone else. Now the entire system is collapsing, and along with it any hope of significant investment in alternative energies anytime soon. The solar industry is absolutely depressed, Tesla is stalled, wind power is dropping, and this has nothing to do with Fannie Mae, which Republicans were emphatically NOT trying to re-regulate by the way, but with an entire banking system allowed to get by with no oversight in order to prop up an ailing economy and keep a jackass in the White House.

By you tedious support of said jackass and his policies you're now watching all your pet energy projects peter out, your 401(k) disappear, budgets starved of the funds to even maintain the ancient infrastructure that we have, and on an on.

You have no one to blame but yourself, your party, and your president.

Shucks. that isn't going to happen.

Once again, the correct answer is "I'm a ridiculous buffoon who talks out of his ass on a blog." Take some responsibility for just how unbelievably bad your predictions have been. As the remarks above clearly show, you don't have the first clue about the subjects on which you bloviate.

You've been nothing but a cheerleader for disaster, misery, and death on this blog, trading in propaganda, wrong on the facts AND analysis nearly continuously, and defending the indefensible. I'm sorry, but those facts are critical and too important to overlook when considering your future bloviations.

Posted by: trex on November 26, 2008 at 1:02 AM | PERMALINK

Do you think anything will be eliminated? Even $1billion in unneeded programs?

I believe you are mistaking yourself for someone who even once took the Republicans to task for the worst government spending in our country's history and who thereby has some grounds on which to question future hypothetical spending by Democrats.

You are not that person, but rather a hypocrite and a gasbag and a desperate shill.

Regardless, the answer is yes: there will be difficult cuts made to the budget just as Roosevelt was forced to do, and this will be just one more issue in a lengthy line of critical issues that you will have depressingly been wrong about.

If you're that concerned about the budget you should be screaming in anger about Bush's bailouts right now. Funny, the silence is rather deafening. All you can seem to focus on is what Obama hasn't done yet in a presidency that hasn't even started.

In self-help circles that's called "psychosis," but here on political blogs we just call it being a jackass troll.

Posted by: trex on November 26, 2008 at 1:36 AM | PERMALINK

Depends on what progressivism entails.

Some people think it means constant improvement in the lives of the poor. True wealth redistribution. The kind of thing conservatives think all liberals want rather than a vocal handful.

Survival. Opportunity to prosper.

The rest is on each person. It is not clear that all Americans have these two simple things available to them.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on November 26, 2008 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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