In Paul Krugman’s Op-Ed in Friday’s New York Times titled “Freezing Out Hope“, he expresses his frustration with President Obama in his recent decision to freeze federal employees salaries for two years. He expresses his disdain for President Obama’s disregard for his liberal/progressive supporters.
After the Democratic “shellacking” in the midterm elections, everyone wondered how President Obama would respond. Would he show what he was made of? Would he stand firm for the values he believes in, even in the face of political adversity?
Whatever is going on inside the White House, from the outside it looks like moral collapse — a complete failure of purpose and loss of direction.
So what are Democrats to do? The answer, increasingly, seems to be that they’ll have to strike out on their own. In particular, Democrats in Congress still have the ability to put their opponents on the spot — as they did on Thursday when they forced a vote on extending middle-class tax cuts, putting Republicans in the awkward position of voting against the middle class to safeguard tax cuts for the rich.
It would be much easier, of course, for Democrats to draw a line if Mr. Obama would do his part. But all indications are that the party will have to look elsewhere for the leadership it needs.
Read the full column @ NYTimes.com.
Some Yes We Can! Long Island Board Members expressed their opinions on this column.
Marvin had the following comment:
Agreed. I made this point over and over at yesterday’s meetings. I am at
my most conflicted level since the 2008 election. Hopefully, backbone will
persist and the State of the Nation speech will bring honor and conviction
back to where it had been no so long ago.
I’m really sad to say that I agree with Krugman
I think Mr. Krugman badly misses the mark with today’s column ” Freezing Out Hope”. To begin, the freeze on Federal pay, although small in the overall picture, is important symbolically. The public’s perception is to a certain degree correct, government employees have not suffered nearly as much as the general public who have experienced near depression level unemployment, many out of work for years or otherwise underemployed just to keep food on the table. Seniors didn’t get a COLA this year, rightly so because the cost of living has not gone up. Why should Federal employees get cost of living increase? Furthermore “a freeze” is somewhat the equivalent of the unilateral ban on “ear marks” by Republicans. The “ban” was also symbolic, welcomed by not only tea party type but also by independents. I think both the “freeze” and the ‘ban” are good unilateral politics.
As far as the bigger issue of the Bush tax cuts we have to ask ourselves who will be hurt more if the cuts expire for everyone including the middle class taxes? Who will be blamed when a family earning on $60,000 per year has to pay almost $3000 more in taxes or almost $6,000 for a family earning $120,000. Who will be blamed the President or the Republicans? Is it a bigger risk for politicians or the middle class?
To a large degree this problem of communication and symbolism was almost two years in the making. As President Obama has admitted they did a poor job of explaining successful legislation. For example: one third the “stimulus” was a tax cut but almost no one realizes it? The Health reform debate dragged on for a year and showed the worst part of making the legislative “sausage”.
Much of it to placate democrats and independents such as Senators Nelson and Lieberman, not republicans. Finally the bail-out of Wall Street was done without caps on bonuses. As a result Wall Street will give out a record $20 billion in 2010 in bonuses, while the middle class is suffering.
The President can’t make the same symbolic mistakes again. I fear he will be blamed for gridlock if he loses this “game of chicken” but the tax cuts expire and the middle class ends up paying thousands of dollars per year in additional taxes. Since the president won election partially on the basis of post-partisanship, and if he loses the battle of chicken, I think the President should instead extend the tax cuts temporarily (for all) but not for more than 2 years and live to fight in 2012 for his re-election? But certainly I don’t think it an easy answer.
Hope is more than just a pay raise.
While I agree with your premise – freezing federal workers salaries will do very little to effect the deficit – and these actions will not help President Obama in finding support from the Republicans, it should not be looked at as an attack on liberal values. A two year pay freeze, while inflation is very low, at a time of such economic upheaval and uncertainty isn’t the end of the world.
A temporary freeze, while possibly misguided, can have some positive benefits, such as giving these agencies more money to hire new employees or improve the efficiency of their department. At least the employees know they have a job that isn’t going anywhere, and right now, that is probably has more value than a pay raise. Stability.
As for your assertion that President Obama is in some way attacking his liberal supporters with this and other policies, I can’t help but question the basis for this assessment. President Obama was not the liberal/progressive candidate some labeled him. Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel were the only two true liberal Democratic candidates in 2008. Though he had many liberal values and views, many assumed he was far more consistently progressive then he ever claimed to be.
President Obama spoke of admiration for Ronal Reagan, of his opposition to legalization of cannabis, of his support of the Afghanistan War – clear examples of his not-so-liberal tendencies. He spoke more of pragmatism and compromise — remember his Red State/Blue State speech?
His focus since his inauguration appears to be a longterm plan to gain support amongst a wide cross-section of America, not based on traditional dividing points in American society, but a better tomorrow achieved through common sense.
In 2 years time, will a Tea Party activist who sees better Health Care for a dying parent realize that President Obama might have done some good with health care reform? Will the Wall Street banker appreciate the booming economy that is based on real small business growth, putting the days of financial wizardry behind them? Will the middle-class family be better off when their child, who was able to get reasonable student loans from the government, can stay on the family health care until 26? Will the soldier appreciate not being sent to war in a nation that we had no business fighting in? When the soldier can also discuss his sexual orientation without fear of reprimand? Will the bloggers appreciate the trove of government information now in the public domain?
Those expecting a liberal, progressive dawning of America with the election of Barack Obama were only fooling themselves with their own hopes. The fact is President Obama has been doing great things for the future of America while focusing very little on the short-term political benefits of his actions. I wonder how many of his supporters actually check out the White House website and blog on a regular basis or if the majority of them just find out about his presidency through watching MSNBC and reading liberal blogs?
We are a fickle people in America, not because we change our minds, but because we refuse to evolve our thinking and reconsider our actions. So many supported President Obama so vehemently during the campaign in 2008, yet today are so often disappointed because they found out he wasn’t exactly what they hoped he would be.
Well, it is time to wise up and support our President and country at this time of great challenge. We should not be looking for “hope” and “change” in our personal hopes and dreams, but we must have hope in a better future for ourselves, our nation, and our planet, even if it ends up being more than two years away.
These times might not be as dire as the times that try men’s souls in 1776, but a great deal of similarities exhaust between then and now. I suppose we shall see if we as a nation are better or worse at being patriots than we were at the founding of the nation.
“I see no real cause for fear. I know our situation well, and can see the way out of it.”
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