Wednesday, December 01, 2010

What the President is Willing to Fight For

Frank Pasquale

Mike Konczal is one of the best finance bloggers, and has an unerring sense of the political realities behind fiscal reforms. He offers this perspective on the recent announcement of a federal pay freeze:

Ezra Klein has three ways of looking at the freeze. . . . . 1) This is more unwise, unilateral bipartisanship, 2) This is a smart way to protect the federal workforce, 3) This is bad economics and bad policy. I think we should discuss a fourth option: President Obama thinks this is a really good idea and wants to spend political capital and energy to carry it out.

Rather than a piece of strategy to force concessions from the other side, this is instead something he wants his administration associated with and wants to take the lead in making it reality. He’s asking for the middle-class to [suffer first], before bankers and before the richest, without asking for anything in return, in response to what he sees as a major short-term deficit problem. So much for Ed Kane’s vision of stronger financial market regulators, more talented and more public-minded. You simply won’t get that without being willing to invest in the people you hire. . . .

Admittedly, the legislative process is a complicated dance. But Konczal's views find support in other moves by the administration, like the abandonment of the public option, opposition to the Brown-Kaufman amendment, and backtracking on civil liberties promises. Now even the FCC, with a clear Democratic majority, appears to be following this trend. As was noted on this blog yesterday by Marvin Ammori:

The [FCC's net neutrality] proposal does not meet Obama's campaign promises, or Obama's other agencies' actions, on net neutrality. It is "make-believe net neutrality." . . .It exempts wireless. . . .The proposal may not ban paid-priority. . . . Enforcement is unclear . . . [and] [t]here may no jurisdiction for any of this anyway.

Ammori has explained that the NTIA, not the FCC, has actually tried to articulate and implement President Obama's campaign promises about net neutrality. But one has to wonder whether its ideas will have traction in a policy environment where the New Democrat Coalition has become the center of political gravity in the Obama White House.

Update: In honor of World AIDS Day, one other data point:

Cameron Nutt, a medical anthropology student at Dartmouth, says he backs President Obama “100 percent.” But, incensed over the president’s “failure to remain true” to a campaign promise to spend $50 billion over five years fighting the AIDS epidemic overseas, Mr. Nutt disrupted Mr. Obama this fall at a Boston rally.

His co-protesters included Luke Messac, a University of Pennsylvania medical student and a field organizer for Mr. Obama’s presidential campaign, and Krishna Prabhu, a Harvard University senior who caucused for Mr. Obama in Iowa in 2008 — and rescheduled his final exam in global health to attend the president’s inauguration. “The promise has not been fulfilled,” Mr. Prabhu said, sounding more disappointed than angry.

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