Thursday, February 28, 2008

Bob Samuelson and Obamanomics

I appreciate Rosser writing up this short critique of Samuelson's column but I resent that it forced me to read the column. Here's Rosser:

In today's WaPo, Robert J. Samuelson attacks "the Obama delusion," complaining that he is a new kid on the block whom RJS is uncomfortable with in contrast with Hillary and McCain. He starts with the usual whine about Obama's speeches being too good but lacking substance. Then he admits that Obama presented a 12-point economic plan at the Janesville, WI GM plant, only now the problem is that it is just "the usual political goodies," and looks too much like Hillary's plan. Oh. But I thought Hillary's plan was OK. I think RJS is steamed that he has not been schmoozed enough by Obama and his circle.

Of course RJS makes a serious fool of himself by ranting about entitlements, he being one of these people who thinks social security and medicare are one and the same. So, Obama is castigated for not resolving entitlement spending. His call to lift the income cap on FICA taxes is simply dismissed, although it is something specific. That Hillary is calling for a vague commission with no specifics, and McCain has said nothing at all that I know of about any of this, and has confessed that he does not know much about economics, does not seem to bother RJS in his lather at all.
To fill this in a little bit for the uninitated: Medicare and Social Security are entirely separate issues. Medicare's long-term finance problems are driven almost entirely by projected increases in health care costs, not rising life expectancy. Social Security's long-term financial issues are much less significant and could dealt with some fairly minor tweaks. One option for Social Security, that Obama has suggested, is lifting the income cap on FICA taxes.

There are plenty of points of his economic policy where one could reasonably question whether Obama has got it right. But these are not the points that Samuelson raises. This is a good moment to remind anyone who might be wondering that RJS is no relation to Nobel-prize winner Paul Samuelson.

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