The Outlines of Bush-Style Trickle-Down Economics?

by: David Sirota

Fri Jan 09, 2009 at 07:00

Two trusted economic progressives are saying Obama's economic stimulus package reeks of Bush-style trickle-down economics.

Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin (D):

Democratic senators are still emerging from their closed-door briefing with Obama economic adviser Larry Summers ... but a senior Democratic senator, Iowa progressive Tom Harkin, just gave me a dire buzzword: trickle-down.

"There's only one thing we've got to do in this stimulus, and that's create jobs," Harkin told me. "I'm a little concerned by the way Mr. Summers and others are going on this ... it still looks a little more to me like trickle-down."

Bob McIntyre of the respected watchdog group Citizens for Tax Justice:

"Obama wants to re-create the Bush stimulus package for business," said Robert McIntyre, director of Citizens for Tax Justice, a liberal-leaning tax policy research group that generally is critical of corporate tax breaks. "It's sort of backwards: Businesses aren't investing because nobody's buying theirs stuff."

We still need to see the final economic stimulus package - right now, it's just broad strokes. So I think it's important to withhold judgment.

That said, these statements are not encouraging signs about the policies Obama will push. What is encouraging is that senators like Harkin have the guts to say what they are saying both in public and behind closed doors to Obama aides. This is exactly what I meant when I said that there is a real value in making sure we have an emboldened Congress that steps up as an equal branch of government.

David Sirota :: The Outlines of Bush-Style Trickle-Down Economics?

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Is this really senators showing "guts" or just "kabuki dancing" (4.00 / 2)
Digby has a post this morning about a seemingly "emboldened" John Kerry and his disagreements with the Obama stimulus business tax cuts. She wonders, quite shrewdly, if what these senators are really doing is "playing the role of the liberal stimulus spending obsessive who will (hopefully) balance out the tax cut fetishists in the senate negotiations, giving Obama some space to compromise at least somewhere to the left of The Club For Growth."
What we see over and over again from our Versailles leadership is a "misunderestimation" of what the American public truly wants, which is stronger government intervention in the financial industry, healthcare, energy policy, and other sectors that have been decimated by laisse fare capitalism. And until I see leadership actions that prove otherwise, I'm assuming this is all just political BS.

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

Would it be better (0.00 / 0)
if they just rubber-stamped it?

[ Parent ]
No, but that's not the point (0.00 / 0)
David is questioning whether the objections from Democratic senators are sincere opposition or not, and that's a fair question given that we've seen Democratic leadership roll over and play dead in order to placate the incessant chants for "bipartisanship." Digby suspects that these objections from Kerry, Conrad, and Harkin are just staged antics in the continuation of the typical Versailles drama, and until I see Democratic leadership that boldly challenges the myth of bipartisanship as even a worthwhile goal, I'm inclined to think that Digby is right.

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

[ Parent ]
Agreed (4.00 / 1)
I would say that if Obama is challenged by senators on the left several times and it never effects the eventual outcome, then the kabuki dance analogy might fit, but in this case it seems to at least the objections opened a dialogue on the merits of Obama's policy proposal, which is certainly a good thing even if it is simply political theater, because the old song and dance of automatically assuming that Obama's proposals were holy and good and above reproach was getting tiring.

[ Parent ]
I find it impossible to tell who is just posturing (4.00 / 2)
I assume that a lot of the language/proposals from each camp - ie, Obama, liberals, blue dogs, GOP - is mere posturing.  But I don't know how any of us can sort that out at this stage. I guess all that we can do is act as if everyone should be taken at their word, and apply pressure accordingly.

[ Parent ]
"all that we can do is act as if everyone should be taken at their word"? (0.00 / 0)
Based on how this country has been governed in recent history, I don't see how you can assume this. In fact, I don't see why you wouldn't assume the exact opposite and assume that everything is just "mere posturing" until a politician takes a stand that reflects the will of progressives at the risk of upsetting the false benevolence of the DC-corporate establishment.

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

[ Parent ]
Digby goes delusional (4.00 / 2)
here, I think, as she does only too often, especially of late.

Harkin came to support Obama when he had little other choice; Kerry was rewarded for his early and steadfast support of Obama by being shown the door. These are not likely candidates for kabuki dancers doing some fine theater on Obama's behalf.

Perhaps the effect of the complaints of Kerry and Harkins is to give Obama some room to act as though he can't compromise too much to the Republicans. But do you really think that that ploy will be in any way persuasive with the Republicans themselves (as opposed to the larger public), who are the ones that Obama seeks to get on board? Of course not.

This is just Obama's own chosen image and approach to politics coming back to haunt him. He has made it clear that he regards his bipartisanship and negotiating skills as being constituitive of who he is as a person, a political leader, and a President. He simply can't allow himself to demonstrate that that image is a fraud on the first and most important piece of legislation coming out of his Presidency.

If the estimates of Krugman that Obama's stimulus is off by a factor of two or three from what is needed is correct, then I think Obama is cooked. It's simply too late for him to revise his numbers up by a factor that will put the stimulus in a range where it might succeed; the political dynamics from here on out all go in the direction of the stimulus numbers going down, not up.

The only hope for Obama is that Krugman's estimates (which are mostly based on estimates from third, non-partisan parties) are way off, and that the economy is not nearly in as bad shape as it seems.

[ Parent ]
The Republicans are not the audience for this theater (0.00 / 0)
and no one -- not even Obama -- is even attempting to genuinely "play" to them. You may be right about Harkin and Kerry in terms of their personal sincerity, but the stage is set for the all-too-familiar scene that you predict in the rest of your comment. So sincere or not, the performance is still cliche.

Save Our Schools! March & National Call to Action, July 28-31, 2011 in Washington, DC: http://www.saveourschoolsmarch...

[ Parent ]
Moreover (4.00 / 1)
Harkin, I believe, didn't endorse until after the primary and his wife endorsed Hillary, while he was also just elected to a new six-year appointment for what could possibly be his final term.  I wouldn't expect much in the way of sycophancy from him.

[ Parent ]
Yeah, I think, given their (0.00 / 0)
histories, I would no more expect that Kerry and Harkin are insincere in their criticisms than was Diane Feinstein.  

[ Parent ]
Left of CfG? (4.00 / 1)
Somewhere to the left of the Club for Growth?

Isn't that like saying that Earth is somewhere inside the orbit of Pluto?  Lots of room in that solar system.  

[ Parent ]
there is no official proposal yet ... (4.00 / 1)
... and if criticisms like Harkin's move the final bill in a more progressive direction, that's great.

I'm happy to see dissent from Democrats in Congress coming from the left (like Harkin's objection to business tax cuts), and unhappy when it comes from the right (like Feinstein's desire for an "old hand" to run the CIA).

While there are reasons to be concerned about Obama, until there are real legislative proposals on the table we're just speculating.

The Problem (4.00 / 2)
The Problem is that Obama's initial framework of a proposal, which would be indicative of his fundamental precepts on economic growth and security, is based upon a thoroughly corporatist, trickle-down notion of public economics.

Not good.

Shlaes figure (0.00 / 0)
The Bureau of Labor Statistics is reporting the following numbers for December 2008:

Unemployed   11,108 (in thousands)
Employed    143,338
Government   22,514

% Unemployed  7.2%
Shlaes %     21.8%

The government figure seems high but if you count cops, trachers, federal amd state worker, prison guards, etc, who knows.

The report also questioned the number of part-time employees (over 8 million) suggesting that part-time employment artificially reduces the unemployment rate substantially.

The number of hours worked per week is the lowest ever going back to 1960.

Similar numbers for December 2000 (Bill Clinton's last full month):

Unemployed   5,653
Employed   135,836
Government  20,468

% Unemployed 4.0%
Shlaes %     18.5%


Change in Unemployed   +96.5%
Change in Employed     + 5.5%
Labor gorce grew       +12,956
Jobs created           + 7,502
% Jobs Needed            57.9%
Manufacturing jobs       -29.1%

Government jobs provided 27.3% of all the new jobs created under Bush.


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