Monday, November 3, 2008

Democratic Econ Policy Kumbaya

When President Clinton took office, he was forced to choose between keeping campaign promises of more public investment and middle-class tax cuts or focusing on deficit reduction. The conflict played out among his advisors, with Robert Reich representing the former "traditional Democratic" view and Robert Rubin taking the "Eisenhower Republican" side, which ultimately carried the day.

That is a useful reminder that an administration's policies can take a very different direction from what a candidate promises or expects. However, if Barack Obama wins tomorrow, it appears he will not face such fundamental differences of opinion among Democratic policy advisors. In the Times, Robert Rubin and Jared Bernstein (of a left-ish think tank) were able to smooth over the differences enough to write a joint op-ed.

Though if one reads carefully, it seems the smoothing over is not quite complete; for example, they write:
In more stable times, a budget deficit equivalent to roughly 2 percent of G.D.P. will keep the debt-to-G.D.P. ratio constant, a legitimate fiscal policy goal. In flush times, a smaller deficit would lower the debt ratio and that might be desirable.
"Might be desirable"? Sounds like something written by two people who don't fully agree...

Anyhow, Ezra Klein says:
[W]hat you can see, at least in the short-term, is an incredible level of consensus on large scale stimulus targeted at infrastructure investment. And this sort of elite unanimity matters, as all manner of wavering congressfolk will go to their chosen sage and get the same answer, rather than being divided by slightly esoteric, intra-wonk rivalries.
Matthew Yglesias writes:
The real question going forward will be whether self-described centrist legislators are willing to heed the advice of Rubin, Summers, and others about the essential need for stimulus, for new spending on infrastructure, and for major investments in health care and education or whether they’re going to choose to play the role of spoilers and try to grab as much special interest cash as possible for their troubles.
See also: EconomistMom, who says "we can get along." (yes, we can?)

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