The front page of today’s New York Times reports on the results from the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. It is largely about who polls the lowest between President Obama and the Congress, President Obama and the Republicans, and Republicans versus Democrats. It made me wonder whether poll results can go below zero.
Here is my take, as they say, Mr. President. You come across as super smart, sincere, and as having the interest of our country at heart. You have me convinced on those attributes. I would like to have you as a friend and neighbor. Maybe we could have a beer on my patio and discuss the issues.
If we did have that beer, however, I would try to convince you that your economics and politics are way too far left to suit me, and, apparently, to suit the country as well. I would tell you it’s time to stop the Bush bashing and blaming for all our ills. I once heard that it’s unseemly for anyone over 30 to blame their parents for their shortcomings. I think that applies to Presidents after their first year.
Many will disagree with me, but I think the two most effective programs in dealing with our financial crisis were the TARP for banks designed by Bush appointee, Henry Paulson, and monetary policy, designed by Bush appointee, Ben Bernanke. Not only are those the most effective efforts in saving us from another great depression, but they are the least expensive as well. Start acknowledging that and stop pandering to left and right wing populists by reinforcing their misconceptions about these efforts. There may be short-term political advantages in such pandering, but it looks unseemly and unpresidential.
The unexpected problems you’ve encountered while reversing Bush policies in national and homeland security are additional reasons to stop campaigning against the last administration. You won the election, so move on. As they say, you campaigned in poetry; now you must govern in prose. The solution to every problem is not a speech.
Regarding programs to help the economy, you also need to stop exaggerating the effectiveness of your humongous overly expensive and unfocused stimulus plan. From the beginning there was a disconnect between the content of your sales pitches and what actually emerged from Pelosi and Reid. There was a similar disconnect between how you described your health care proposals and what was being negotiated by the leadership. They always move you farther left, while the country is center right. You probably could move us all in the direction you want in baby steps by incremental changes that reasonable people can agree on. Pick the low hanging fruit first and see how that works. Don’t make us bet the whole farm on a pig in a poke.
In health care, that may mean start with tort reform, interstate competition in insurance, removing limits on training new physicians, expansion of health savings accounts, etc. Use a dial incrementally and opportunistically and stop trying to flip a switch that would change everything all at once. Remember, free enterprise works. The market works. Maybe you can improve outcomes at the margin, but we don’t want you to take our health care system from the market to the government in one fell swoop.
In the financial area, I don’t get your banker bashing. I don’t get why you attribute the sins of a handful of investment banks to all 8000 or so commercial banks. I don’t get taxing them to pay for TARP which is already earning a profit for taxpayers. You want bankers to lend more. So do I, but I don’t see how banker bashing is helping that cause.
Don’t you see that you are creating uncertainty and fear that have bankers afraid of risk taking? Almost a trillion of dollars of excess reserves on bank balance sheets is direct evidence of banker uncertainty and fear. Why do you add to that fear? You are choking the goose you are counting on for golden eggs. You are, in effect, saying that the beatings will continue until morale improves. That’s a joke, not a policy.
What can I tell you about the Congressional democrats, Mr. President? They are not serving you well by pushing you farther and farther to the left. Why not follow the example of President Clinton and build a coalition of moderate democrats and Republicans and pass legislation in the mainstream of American thinking. Your reaction to the Brown victory in Massachusetts was bizaare. He demonstrated how too far left you and the democrats are, and you responded by moving farther in that direction just to appease those who want to see some banker blood on their pitchforks.
As the poll showed, Mr. President, you have chosen your enemies well, with the Republicans perceived as less popular than you and the democrats. “Just say no” may be a useful slogan in fighting teenage drugs and sex, but it isn’t an appealing slogan for serious policymakers. Their strategy seems to be to stand back and not interfere while their political enemies are destroying themselves. That strategy may work politically, but how would we be better off if it did? If they have alternative policies superior to yours, I’d like to hear what they are so I won’t be just voting against you and the democrats. I want to vote for something as well.
Some of my favorite Republican Senators voted no on Ben Bernanke and are running from their yes vote on Tarp. Of course, they are trying to protect their right flank and get out of the crosshairs of the Tea Partiers. But I’d rather see them act more courageously by leading rather than following and trying to appease the ankle biters.
Mr. President, I may vote against everybody next time around, but I would still enjoy having that beer with you.