As you may recall I’ve been puzzled by the president’s reluctance to lay out his plans for a second term. In that light I was amused by columnist E. J. Dionne’s column last week in which he proposed his own agenda for a second Obama term capped with a somewhat contradictory assertion that a custodial presidency, guaranteeing the accomplishments of the first term, was really good enough.
Mickey Kaus noticed that column, too, and even more he noticed that the column implicitly contradicts a previous Dionne column:
Oh wait. I’m sorry. That was written last month when it looked like Obama had some chance of winning big and defeating the entire ”GOP congressional apparatus.” Now that he doesn’t, winning big turns out not to matter so much! In a fortuitous development, it seems that, on second thought, Obama can not only govern but pursue an ambitious second term agenda even if Republicans continue to control the House–at least he can on five big issues (immigration, energy, education, infrastructure and campaign finance).
Our confusion can now be laid to rest. The Obama re-election campaign has produced a booklet outlining the president’s plans for a second term. If I find an online version, I’ll link to it but here’s a summary:
The new booklet—a glossy, 20-page publication with several policy sections—makes no mention of Mr. Romney or any of his ideas. In some cases, such as health care, it explains what Mr. Obama has already done and details what he won’t do, such as privatize Social Security. Other sections highlight his promises for a second term, though the promises are somewhat limited. For instance, his education section includes his goal of cutting the growth of tuition by half over the next 10 years, though the federal government’s power to achieve that is uncertain.
The new, 60-second TV ad is narrated by Mr. Obama. In it, he says the nation has added five million jobs, seen exports and home values rise, and brought soldiers home from wars abroad.
“Here’s my plan for the next four years,” the president then says. “Making education and training a national priority, building on our manufacturing boom, boosting American-made energy, reducing the deficits responsibly by cutting where we can, and asking the wealthy to pay a little more. And ending the war in Afghanistan.”
“Cutting the growth of tuition by half” seems like a very modest goal to me. Over the last ten years tuition costs have more than doubled. They’ve grown about four times as fast as prices, generally (CPI-U). Is cutting the rate of increase to twice that of CPI-U an adequate goal?
What effect will “cutting where we can” and increasing the rate paid by the top 1% of income have on the deficit? Practically nothing, according to the CBO.
For me the most enlightening part of the plan is that it’s pretty clear that the president is doubling down on structural problems, that Americans just don’t have the training and education needed for the jobs that are available, as the main problem facing the U. S. economy. You can believe that a shortfall in demand is the main problem facing our economy or you can believe that the president has the right prescription. You can’t believe in both.