Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Some thoughts on the President’s first year

According to the conditions under which I hold my blogging license, I must comment on the current US political situation or be banned from the blogosphere. So here are a few quick grades for the feds a year on from Obama’s inauguration.

President Obama: B
Let’s face it. When the guy took office we were quagmired in two wars, the economy was in free fall, and the federal government couldn’t tie its own shoelaces. The president’s job is to execute, and I think he has done this pretty well. His appointments have mostly been smart, capable people, the wars have plans, goals, and time tables. The relief effort in Haiti- a third-world country 600 miles away- is proceeding more smoothly than the New Orleans program did back home. And while the economy might only be getting better for rich people and Asia, it isn’t getting any worse. So he seems to be getting things done, which is good. McCain’s inability to lead his own senate colleagues in response to the economic crisis is what led me to change my vote in the dying weeks of the campaign back then. So I’m glad this guy is competent.

As for his legislative agenda, I’m not real interested in expanding the scope of government, especially if it is having trouble doing everything currently on its plate, which leads me to:

Democratic Congress: C-

The economic stimulus package was not particularly forward thinking or well-constructed. But it was probably better than nothing, and it seems to have at least stopped the free-fall. The House also passed some form of greenhouse gas legislation, but I don’t recall it being a particularly innovative or aggressive program. And then there’s the health care debacle.

The way I see it, congress had two choices. Bring US healthcare standards up to the standards of the rest of the civilized world, or expand the current crappy coverage to everyone. As far as I can tell, they’ve chosen to do the latter. Well, I guess they tried, unlike:

Republican congress: F

These guys have done nothing. And I mean nothing. The US, and indeed the world, has a number of serious problems. These need to be addressed. They don’t have to necessarily be addressed with Federal intervention, if a program of lateral regulation and connectivity can do the job better than a 20th century style central bureaucracy. But the Republicans haven’t come up with any better plans. They’ve just obstructed and complained. And I think that is just pathetic.

We'll see if this new guy can breathe some life into the GOP, and if the election result prompts the President to execute more and legislate less. On the other hand, if the house puts blinders on and passes the senate version unchanged, that will be the slimiest, scumbag move ever to cross the floor of congress.


Tom said...

Passing legislation that has the support of the majority of Congress would be the slimiest thing they've ever done? I know the health care bill is lame, but Congress has done some impressively slimy things over the years - look into the pre-Civil War days, for example.

BrianR said...

The American legislative system, especially the Senate, is broken. The filibuster used to be a very rarely used thing ... now, it's automatic. It only takes 41% of the Senate to stop any legislation. WTF.

Perhaps some will argue that this resistance-to-change is a feature. I'm sure there are scores of examples that illustrate that.

As for increasing scope of government ... this is the fear-mongering card the Republicans play every time they are out of power (funny how it largely goes away when they are in power). I'm flabbergasted that people trust health insurance executives who are looking out for their shareholders over gov't regulatory bodies. While the latter is very far from perfect, the people have the ability to affect them via elections. We don't have one flippin' say in what health insurance companies do. Same goes for banks or whatever.

I fear the increasing power and influence of gigantic for-profit multinational corporations far more than the government.

BrianR said...

One more thing ... your last comment is utterly ridiculous. Bush passed several huge pieces of legislation via reconciliation.

C W Magee said...

Brian, I'm not talking about reconciliation. I'm talking about bypassing the reconciliation process by passing the version already passed by the Senate verbatim. If they did that, reconciliation would not be needed. This would essentially cut the new senate out of the process.