Monday, March 21, 2011

Who Needs Priorities?

I’m shocked, shocked I tell you, to read that unnamed administration officials are telling Brian Beutler not to expect the administration to come forward with any of its own proposals about financing unfunded Social Security liabilities:
“The White House will not prominently inject itself into congressional negotiations on Social Security reform until after key legislators in both the House and Senate unveil their plans to reduce projected long-term deficits, according to administration officials.”
Mind you, that’s not because Obama and his advisers don’t have a lot of nifty ideas about how to put Social Security on a sound financial footing while minimizing the hardship to senior citizens and taxpayers. It’s just that, in this case, they’re keeping them to themselves for tactical reasons (my emphasis):
“That won't please Republican leaders on Capitol Hill, who have attacked Obama for remaining silent in this debate. And these 64 Senate Republicans and Democrats won't be too happy either. But it's part of a broader political and policy strategy the administration is employing to keep Obama's powder dry while Republicans struggle to reduce deficits without increasing revenues in any meaningful way.”
Has there ever been an administration that's better than this one at keeping its powder dry?  When it came to the stimulus bill, the administration wouldn't presume to tell Congress how to get the most stimulative bang for the nation’s bucks because we couldn’t afford to delay getting all that money out the door to fund all those “shovel-ready” projects that Obama now tells us didn’t exist. When it came to what we charitably call “ObamaCare,” the administration didn’t tell Congress whether it wanted a public option, a Medicare buy-in, an individual mandate, etc. because it didn’t want to repeat Bill Clinton’s mistake of getting a Democratic Congress’s back up by trying to steamroll it into passing a prefabricated version of health care reform. When it came to financial reform, the administration stood aside and let Barney Frank and Chris Dodd hammer out a bill that could get a few Republican votes in the Senate. . .   Well you get the point.

We all know that, even when one party controls the elected branches of government and enjoys a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, no one in the federal government besides the president has the institutional capacity to set the government’s priorities. Presidential leadership is all the more essential in that respect under divided government. But hey, who needs priorities? It’s not as if the government has anything important to do and we’re running out of money to fund it.


Jake said...

As I remember things, Clinton responded to his 1994 shellacking by pushing congressional Democrats aside and becoming the voice, and negotiator-in-chief, of the Democratic Party. Obama seems want to cut the deal with Republicans at the end of negotiations behind closed doors without voicing, and drumming up support for, the Democratic position before the deal is cut. The Republicans have lots of high-profile figures talking up their budget proposals. Some of them, like Paul Ryan and even Boehner, are pretty effective. As long as Obama keeps silent, all the Democrats have is Reid and Pelosi. Without Obama there's no contest. He should step up to the plate.

Mean Voter said...

I agree with Jake. Obama should step up to the plate on the budget talks.

In fact, I think Obama ought to step up to the plate on a whole lot of things. Though, he just stepped up on Libya and it's not going so well. It appears he isn't making anyone happy.