Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Gelbach to Gleckman: Let's Bet On It

Yesterday, DonPedro commented on Howard Gleckman's suggestion of Doug Holtz-Eakin for Obama OMB Director, calling it the "stupidest idea of the day". Gleckman fired back today, poking fun at DP, noting the tongue-in-cheek nature of his original post, and referring to this blog and Ezra Klein collectively as the Left (I had no idea I was part of such an influential and capitalized Group), among other things. I note that don't know Gleckman at all, though I've thought his blog posts at the TaxPolicy Blog sensible.

Gleckman's basic point is that

Obama will not have the money he needs to pay for all of his campaign promises. This is not about expectations or priorities. It is a simple matter of arithmetic. He can’t cut taxes for everyone making $250,000 or less (the new middle-class in Obama land) and, at the same time, expand government programs for health care, the environment, education, and infrastructure. There are just not enough rich people to tax or Chinese to borrow from.
So, Gleckman says, someone will have to break the bad news to the Left (plus others besides E4O and Ezra K). No doubt he's right on some, if not all, of these substantive points. For the record, I read Gleckman's original post before DP's broadside and here's my two points.
  1. I thought it surprising that any serious person would now suggest Doug Holtz-Eakin for any job other than in-house economist for the "Club For Growth" or maybe AEI. After watching H-E do what appeared to me to be a stand-up job as CBO director in a GOP-controlled Congress bent on tax cuts no matter what, I've been truly dismayed to watch the contempt he's shown for facts and intellectual honesty in this campaign. It's true that all campaigns spin, but my sense is that H-E's performance has been a two-sigma embarrassment, both in absolute terms and by comparison to, say, Austan Goolsbee's.
  2. While I didn't immediately recognize Gleckman's post as tongue in cheek, on second read, I think that's a fair description of it. So I'm happy to absolve Gleckman of any aspersions I'd previously cast on him in private. (I can't, though, collectively stand down for the Left, since that would require agreement from two other bloggers here plus Ezra Klein.)
Meanwhile, back at the Dish, Andrew Sullivan posts a long missive from an anonymous reader who takes Sullivan to task for understating/underestimating relatively greater mortal peril that an Obama Presidency poses for America's fiscal situation, by comparison to McCain. You see, because Dems will likely control Congress,
McCain doesn't need to come up with spending cuts to offset his initiatives since most of the initiatives stand no chance of passage. Finding spending cuts would be a purely academic exercise that would do little but cost McCain votes. With Obama, by contrast, will get whatever he wants through congress. Just about every dime of his spending program will be enacted
It's certainly possible that both Gleckman and Sullivan's reader will be right -- Obama in principle could get "every dime" of his spending proposals enacted without cutting taxes on middle- and lower-income folks. A more reasonable guess is that after his inauguration, should that happy event come to pass, President Obama will do some of each. Gleckman's right that that will be disappointing to some allied with the four of us here on the Left. While Gleckman may yet be right that someone will have to break the bad news to liberals, I'm willing to bet that pacifying us four at the Left and our allies will not be the biggest issue. Try getting enough senators on board (unless, bless the thought, the Dems get to 60, not counting Joe Lieberman). There's some history on this issue, and Gleckman either has it backward or is providing an awfully incomplete picture. He writes that
In 1993, Bob Rubin was Clinton’s bad cop to the Democratic base.
But the hard part for Clinton in 1993 was hardly the Democratic base (the Left didn't exist yet, since blogs didn't). The hard part was support from those in the center and on the right. Not a single Republican in Congress voted for Clinton's budget bill, which included both tax increases on upper income folks and spending cuts. It passed because Clinton was able to persuade enough center and center-right Democrats to vote for it. Lots of ink was spilled over the claim that its one-vote margin cost Marjorie Margolis-Mezvinsky her seat in the House. And I still remember the circus act that was Sen. Bob Kerrey's Hamlet impression before he grudgingly agreed to vote in favor.

So I'm proposing that Gleckman and I make a gentlemanly wager. He says liberals will be the hard part for Obama if he wins, while I say Republicans and centrist/center-right Dems will be.
Let's put a pitcher of beer on the table, loser pays. What do you say, Howard?


Howard Gleckman said...

Beer for sure. At least you didn't offer Chardonnay and brie. But we need a better bet. How's this: If Krugman writes a column by April 30accusing Obama of being a Clintonesque sell-out to Wall Street interests, you buy. If not, I buy. Oh, and if McCain is elected in November, you buy.
Btw, did Don Pedro really accuse me of calling him a commie?

Don Pedro said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Don Pedro said...

Glad you came by for a visit!

I don't doubt that Krugman will write that column. I'm not sure he hasn't already. I guarantee Obama will be criticized by people on both ends of the political spectrum. But the question is who is going to be a threat to his plans. More thoughts on that later.

I don't think I'm being overly sensitive about being called a member of "New Left," given that one of the main Republican attack lines against Obama is that he once served on a committee with a guy who was in the Weathermen more than 30 years ago.

"New Left" has a very clear meaning--see a dictionary, Wikipedia, a Google search, or your reference volume of choice--and I'm quite sure I'm not part of that group.