Sunday, November 16, 2008

Obama: damn the debt, full speed ahead

In the third Obama-McCain debate, Bob Schieffer posed what came to be regarded as a baseline "responsible journalist" response to the financial system collapse:
Some experts say [the deficit] could go to $1 trillion next year....Aren't you both ignoring reality? Won't some of the programs you are proposing have to be trimmed, postponed, even eliminated?
But even as the chorus for Clintonian budget responsibility has swelled, a Keynsian counterpoint, led by Larry Summers and Paul Krugman, is drowning it out. The upshot: Clinton came in as a recovery was gathering steam, so deficit reduction was appropriate. But a mega-recession is no time to cut spending Krugman has argued that Roosevelt unwittingly spiked recovery in 1937 --after four years of massive stimulus -- by getting deficit religion too early.

Further, in Krugman's words, "the response to the economic crisis is, in itself, a chance to advance the progressive agenda." Major initiatives like alternative energy investment and health care reform should in fact be rolled into economic stimulus.

Obama has held steady with the "full steam ahead" school. During the campaign, he was regarded as evasive for refusing to name a major element of his agenda that would have to be scaled back in response to massive bailout outlays (though he did repeatedly rank priorities, beginning with alternative energy and ending with education).

In his first weekly address as President elect, Obama once again answered Schieffer -- and in fact, echoed Krugman, signaling in no uncertain terms that he's going for all-fronts-full-steam-federal-investment:
Even as we dig ourselves out of this recession, we must also recognize that out of this economic crisis comes an opportunity to create new jobs, strengthen our middle class, and keep our economy competitive in the 21st century.

That starts with the kinds of long-term investments that we've neglected for too long. That means putting two million Americans to work rebuilding our crumbling roads, bridges, and schools. It means investing $150 billion to build an American green energy economy that will create five million new jobs, while freeing our nation from the tyranny of foreign oil, and saving our planet for our children. It means making health care affordable for anyone who has it, accessible for anyone who wants it, and reducing costs for small businesses. And it also means giving every child the world-class education they need to compete with any worker, anywhere in the world.

Doing all this will require not just new policies, but a new spirit of service and sacrifice, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. If this financial crisis has taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers -- in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people. And that is how we will meet the challenges of our time -- together. Thank you.

Who's afraid trillion dollar deficits? Not Obama...

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