Michael Gerson is a former speechwriter for George W. Bush turned Washington Post columnist, from which perch he has spent the entirety of the Obama administration gleefully predicting a downward spiral into ruin and dysfunction reminiscent of, well, George W. Bush. Having possibly run low on Obama tragic failure scenarios, Gerson devotes today’s column to musing about why Obama has not proposed any major new initiative to address the economic crisis.
Gerson begins by arguing that Obama is declining to propose any major plans because he does not want to admit failure:
Announcing an ambitious new set of policy proposals would be an admission that previous approaches were insufficient — that the economy is not moving in the right direction. … Obama’s economic message is currently premised on the denial of a crisis.
But wait! Through diligent research — I have hired a team of laid-off Bush-era Middle East intelligence veterans just for this research task — we have scoured the public record and uncovered a startling fact: Obama does have an ambitious new set of policy proposals!
He unveiled it in a nationally televised address last fall, after which point he has been touring the country and touting it daily. Is this plan “premised on the denial of a crisis,” as Gerson charges? Here is the beginning of Obama’s nationally televised address:
Tonight we meet at an urgent time for our country. We continue to face an economic crisis that has left millions of our neighbors jobless, and a political crisis that’s made things worse.
That doesn’t sound like the denial of crisis to me.
Now, either Gerson never managed to obtain this valuable document, or he lost interest after the first sentence. In the course of musing about why Obama has declined to propose the plan that Obama has, in fact, proposed, Gerson strains his imagination to try to envision what such a plan would look like. He then explains why it would be a bad idea:
... it is not clear what such things might be. Given the federal budget crisis, prospects are poor for major new stimulus spending or backfilling state and local budgets.
Okay, so first Gerson has flayed Obama for failing to propose a major plan. Then he has argued that we shouldn’t have a major plan because the deficit is too big. And yes, the deficit is pretty big, because the Bush administration spent eight years passing a series of major initiatives that were completely funded by debt. And yes, “prospects are poor” for passing a major new stimulus, because Republicans in Congress will never pass the actual Obama plan that Gerson won’t acknowledge. In fact, unlike every Bush administration initiative ever, Obama’s jobs plan is fully paid for over ten years. Now, it’s not paid for in a way Republicans would like, but they would be free to propose other ways to offset the cost of a jobs plan if they so desire to pass something to address the economic crisis. Oddly, they do not.
Somewhere in the middle of writing his column, or possibly after submitting it to an editor, Gerson appears to have become vaguely aware that Obama has proposed an economic plan. So, after repeating his general claim that Obama has no economic plan, Gerson notes, as an aside, that he does have a plan but it’s too small:
Obama is left with a series of recycled State of the Union proposals — maintaining existing middle-class tax breaks, spending on infrastructure, funding some jobs for teachers — that no self-respecting Keynesian economist would judge sufficient.
Hmm. No self-respecting Keynesian economist would judge it sufficient? How about Paul Krugman? I don’t think anybody would accuse him either of not being a Keynesian economist or of lacking self-respect. There's also, you know, pretty much the entire macroeconomic forecasting field, which has said the plan would add 100,000 to 150,000 jobs a month.
I’m sure once he has become aware that all his objections about Obama are false — that Obama is not denying the crisis, that he does have a plan to address it, that Keyensian economists do support the plan, and it won’t increase the long-term deficit — surely he will change his mind on this.