Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The best of Robert Reich


Collection of Robert Reich's essays. Would do you think of a Reichian progressive framing for the Obama presidency?

6 comments:

PBM said...

I think it could have worked if it was implemented early. There was a big case to make against the Bush admin. and big businesses early on and Obama didn't make it. Instead he tried to be bipartisan with a group of Republicans that were never going to be bipartisan. I think there would have been the risk of the country turning on Obama, but that kind of happened anyways because of the GOP message machine that made him out to be a hyper-liberal. I also think if he had taken up the role of FDR he could have had preempted the tea party with an angry group of voters that potentially would have taken his side against big business and Republicans. Just my thoughts.

Patrick_Landers said...

I agree with Peter. Clearly Obama lost the message war on the financial collapse and explaining it. If he had been more forceful and coherent in providing an explanation, Obama might have avoided some of the public angst over the economy. I doubt making those arguments about the Bush Administration and under-regulated big business could have hurt him more than what he’s experienced in reality over the issue.

You can't be post-partisan with one side committed to partisanship. It just means you don’t accomplish anything as you constantly extend your hand out to the Republicans who promptly bite it.

For proof of the increasing Republican obstinacy, look at health care reform. The Democrats drew extensively upon past conservative ideas on reforming the health care system- which until recently everyone recognized was important. The bill is essentially RomneyCare 2.0 (though greatly improved in finding painless cost-control options), and yet only a handful of Republicans ever showed the slightest interest. They decided to seize political advantage instead of addressing the most important factor explaining our deficits- rapidly rising health care costs!!!! The Republican hypocrisy on this makes me sick- now it’s all about “deficit reform and the Obama administration’s leading us into economic devastation!” The only Republican strategy for addressing health care costs in the current debate is to reform Medicare and Medicaid into vouchers/spending caps and block grants respectively. Of course, what that does is turn Medicare into a second-class form of health insurance (don’t worry- the wealthy elderly will just buy better supplemental insurance, so it’s not a big deal). For Medicaid, what block grants will do is enable Republican Governors to achieve their true objective- cut millions of low-income Americans from the very stingy program!). Essentially, what the Republicans are arguing in practice is this: Deficits are everything! The government is killing the American people! Health care costs are important, but we're against addressing them through system-wide changes that could cut costs and improve outcomes simultaneously. Instead, we lie through our teeth and imply that government health programs cost more than private alternatives, which will allow us to slash the programs and reduce the health care benefits of millions of low-income individuals, including a high percentage of elderly and children.

Patrick_Landers said...

Moving on, I think it’s interesting to consider a point Reich and many other progressives have been arguing for months. I’m not sure I agree with it, but I think it’s an interesting theory which I’ll express in my terms:

If you can't be post-partisan because there's no bipartisanship, then you only have one option. Mimic what Republicans have been doing since Gingrich gained prominence in the 80's. Shout at the top of your lungs, attract attention, and be ideologically rigid. The American center (consisting of uninformed moderates and independents) generally just looks at the black Republican and the white Democratic messages. Btw, those colors are randomly assigned- feel free to reverse them if you like. That would actually better match the demographic composition of the parties ;) Average Americans assume the truth is some color of gray in-between these polar-opposite arguments. For decades Republicans have been getting “darker” while Democrats have accepted (in terms of the national, presidential-level) candidates with more gray. This means that ill-informed Americans' perceived reality has been getting darker (away from gray). They use heuristics to analyze all the political chatter, and their world-view has slowly moved right. Democrats sticking to their nuanced positions that invite compromise with Republicans might be a losing proposition. That's a losing proposition for Democrats , so Democrats should copy the very successful Republican overall strategy and shout louder and articulate a progressive, liberal, left-of-center agenda. The center will follow.

Now I’ll admit- I disagree with this argument because I think most Americans, fully informed or not, are mostly centrist. I think that a merging of different ideas we see among centrists is a better strategy for governing our nation and charting a course to growth and prosperity. But I think it’s an interesting alternative strategy, and one that seems to have worked well for Republicans. (This is of course simply my opinion...)

Patrick_Landers said...

I hate to just post a link instead of my usual dissertation, but here's a relevant link:
http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=a_message_for_progressives
(obviously it's a little one-sided)

Patrick_Landers said...

and another relevant article from the Prospect by E.J. Dionne for those of you interested (http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=the_politics_of_the_new_middle_america)
And yes, I'm on a The American Prospect craze- I had to read a bunch of articles for a Brookings Event I'm attending tomorrow (ok, today in seven hours-whoopsies bedtime!) entitled "America’s Endangered Middle Class: Exploring Progressive and Conservative Remedies."

Patrick_Landers said...

last one I swear!!! but this article also provides an argument about the need for a framework or broader vision beyond what Obama's supplying (though I think Obama's Win the Future is a crappy version of this): http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=time_for_national_greatness_liberalism
I'm not saying I buy these article's arguments, I'm just pointing out articles relevant to this point (which attracted so much attention in our debate) for those who are interested.