I think it was soon after being elected that Barack Obama started making statements about how we needed to get the economy going again and so his administration wasn’t going to spend much time worrying about our record deficits. The logic was job was to get America working again and once that was accomplished it’d be easier to cut our massive deficits.
As far as I could tell, Obama’s logic was widely accepted as reasonable. People were willing to give him a short term pass on the deficit problem. Most politicians would have stopped right there.
President Obama we may be finding out isn’t just any politician. The President is proving to be a truly ambitious guy and a risk taker to boot. Not only is he putting billions of dollars towards stimulating the economy, now he’s planning on cutting deficits at the same time. Basically, he’s increasing spending massively while pledging to cut drastically. That’s going to be one difficult trick to pull off.
These are tough times. These are times that demand ambitious plans. Perhaps our best bet is a comprehensive approach that tackles many of the big ticket items that ail and drain our economy: Iraq, Afghanistan, deficits, health care, the auto industry, infrastructure problems. I can go on… So, maybe it’s all tied together and President Obama is wise to try to tackle it all while he’s still got the political capital to do it.
For the country’s sake and his own political future, he’d better be right. Obama is persuring a high risk/high reward strategy. If things work out, he may end up as one of our most accomplished leaders. If the economy doesn’t turn around and if he’s unable to bring down the deficits, he risks being labeled as someone who could not deliver on bold promises made to a country in need of some good news.
Obama could have chosen a safer route and everyone would have understood. I admire his refusal to do so and pray that he’s right.
Speaking of the right… The GOP is clearly playing their own version of a high risk/high reward strategy. Putting some context on it, it’s very clear that at least in the House, Democrats have not been governing in much of a bi-partisan manner. Republicans simply haven’t been given much input into writing bills like the recently passed stimulus package. Furthermore, the GOP doesn’t have the numbers to block the Democrats from shutting them out. So, y0u can understand why they’d be a bit grumpy.
Still, the GOP decision to stand idly by while the country continues to struggle is a big risk. If things go well for them, things will go bad for the country. That means that the GOP will be able to say “see, we told you so”. Hmmmmm…. I wonder if the country is going to give them points for being right in the end or if people will wonder how the Republicans they elected to represent them could have sat out on the sidelines while things got worse and worse?
These are not ordinary times and so ordinary politics just won’t do.
Let’s look at the flip side, let’s say the economy improves. What will Republicans say then? Won’t the public remember a new president who spoke about bi-partisanship only to find very few Republicans willing to work with him at a time when the country needed them most? Sure, as I noted earlier in this post, the Democrats in the House aren’t playing nice either. The question is will the general public remember that?
Obama is clearly taking a massive risk. Yet, I can see clearly how there’s a potential upside. The GOP on the other hand is pursuing a risky strategy that seems destined to either leave them with no potential upside or very little even if they end up being right and Obama’s policies don’t improve the economy.
Perhaps Republicans aren’t understanding how bad time are? How can some GOP governors say with a straight face that they might turn down stimulus money? I’m suspecting that if I’m a struggling conservative everyman in a conservative state where services are being cut at a time when I need them and my governor is refusing aid, I would not be happy about it. In times like these ideological concerns quickly give way to the practical. Maybe that’s what the GOP isn’t grasping.
On the drive home this evening, I was listening to talk radio on NPR. A small business owner called up and said she’d always been a Republican but can’t stand to see her party doing nothing during this crisis. She told the host and his Republican Congressman guest (whose name I didn’t catch – my bad!) that the GOP keeps saying small business will lift us out of this mess. The caller said she’s done all she can and now it’s time for government and politicians to help.
Listen, I know it’s NPR, but if the caller truly was a Republican than the GOP just might be in real trouble. It really calls into question whether the party has the pulse of the nation.
My guess is no.