View Full Version : A recklessness born of arrogance

08-22-2009, 07:37 AM
Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei of Politico wonder whether President Obama's "big-bang" approach to his first year in office might have been misguided. The term big-bang refers here to the administration's attempt to push through major reforms on a variety of fronts - energy, financial regulation and health care -- in a condensed time period. The approach also goes by the name "doing too much too fast.

Allen and Vandehei suggest that a better strategy would have been to focus on passing measures that deal directly with the economic downturn. Once the economy recovers, as it almost certainly will, Obama could take the credit and use his enhanced popularity to seek broad reform in areas like health care and energy.

I tend to agree with Allen and Vandehei, and have made similar arguments in the past. To be sure, a "good crisis" provides a president with opportunities to push through legislation that ordinarily would be deemed too radical. But this is so only to the extent that the legislation can be viewed as clearly connected to addressing the crisis. If the legislation is seen as too unconnected, then the existence of a crisis might make passage less likely, not more.

This is particularly true if the legislation can be viewed as anti-growth (cap-and-trade) or too expensive (health care). In any event, the desire to make health care more widely available or to improve the environment will be felt more acutely in good economic times than in bad.

Administration officials are now offering excuses for adopting the faltering "big bang" approach. David Axelrod says:

The times demanded it. We didn't have the luxury of taking things sequentially, year after year, and hoping we got there. That's the reason that all these major issues had been deferred for decades: Change is hard.

But these are just slogans posing as analysis. If change is hard, then change on a massive scale all at once is that much harder. And the "times" never "demand" that a losing strategy (if that's what this turns out to be) be preferred over a more sensible one.


08-22-2009, 10:27 AM
What do you expect of a closet muzzie?