Saturday, February 21, 2009

Obama one month in

One month into Obama's term, I'd say that things are going pretty much exactly as I expected. He's signed a number of relatively costless initiatives like SCHIP that were all but passed except for Presidential veto, affirmed Bush-era imprisonment and trial policies for people at e.g. Bagram prison, avoided nationalizing banks that need to be nationalized, and gotten through a stimulus package that benefits mostly Obama. Why that last? Because it doesn't benefit actual voters to have a bucket of money thrown at bailing out the system, not when that's only getting us out of trouble that the system got us into in the first place. It helps Obama to not have a Depression during his term, but for the rest of us, the help is rather like the kind of help you get when someone tells you "your money or your life" and you give them your money -- it's better not to lose your life, but that's hardly help. Meanwhile, Obama got the stimulus package through with politically valueless concessions that severely reduced its effectiveness, plus what should be recognized by now as his signature move, a completely gratuitous culture-war slam at his backers for just the possibility of political benefit (by which I mean what he did with money for contraception).

My inaugural poem is holding up well. I still think, of course, that Obama is vastly better than McCain would have been, probably better than Hillary Clinton would have been. But the progressive reaction to the stimulus plan was laughable. "Why isn't Obama calling on us to help push this through?" It was like Boxer in Animal Farm asking plaintively why they weren't letting him work harder. The reaction should have been to threaten to sabotage the stimulus package through pressure on a sympathetic Senator or two unless Obama bought them off with more progressive elements in it. He would have understood that perfectly well. As the poem says, my hope for change rests on that Obama is actually going to need the left for the last few votes to get past the GOP, and the left is going to wake up and start using that leverage.

At least there's $100 million in the stimulus for lead paint removal. That will do some good.

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