Tuesday, January 04, 2011

All This and Budget Cuts Too?

Michael Gerson is brimming with advice for the President, this time channeling David Brooks:
The most effective responses are also the most daunting. Crime prevention, in the long run, is youth development. The alternative to cultivating the next generation is fearing it. Children, as one would expect, do better in life when they have not been poisoned by lead paint, abandoned by parents or betrayed by failed schools. There is promise in encouraging preschool attendance, providing mentors for the fatherless, demanding competent teachers, rewarding high school completion and making street gangs less attractive.
The last time a Democratic President attempted to get behind that type of community improvement, the Republican response was to belittle his effort and sneer about "midnight basketball" - in fact, some are still sneering at midnight basketball. I'm sure this time things will be completely different - that the Republican Party Gerson just got through telling us will distort and lie about the consequences of any tax reform bill wouldn't pluck another minor element out of an anti-gang initiative in order to attack the larger effort.

Gerson tells us that we're exhausted, yes, exhausted by the last two years.
The president has exhausted the nation with grand reforms.
Those reforms would be... the modest financial industry reform bill that leaves things pretty much the way they were before the crisis? The Affordable Care Act, health insurance reform that largely follows Republican ideas from the 1980's and the reform passed in Massachusetts by a Republican governor? Going beyond that... the Republicans successfully scuttled the DREAM Act, thanks to the effort of Republican Senators who... used to champion that reform - and its passage would have been very modest as immigration reform measures go. Far less than what Gerson's former boss was pressing for in the early days of his administration. The Republicans, once the champions of "cap and trade", also successfully killed off a bill that would have implemented cap and trade for carbon emissions.

Is Gerson including START and the DADT repeal, two accomplishments from the lame duck session that he just got through telling us prove that Congress isn't broken? START was a no-brainer, supported by pretty much every Republican who knows a whit about foreign policy and military affairs. DADT repeal, while controversial, is irrelevant to the lives of most Americans and I don't recall anything particularly "exhausting" about the debate. Credit card reform is another accomplishment, but the only people I saw become exhausted by its passage were financial industry lobbyists. I will grant that compared to most Presidents in recent history, President Obama has accomplished quite a lot in his first two years in office. But "grand reforms"? Try modest, incremental reforms made controversial primarily by the deliberate spread of misinformation by his political opponents.

Seriously, Gerson needs to spend less time telling the Executive branch what to do and start focusing on his own party. The Republicans control the House of Representatives. If they want to get behind community improvement and anti-gang measures, nothing is stopping them. If they pass a good initiative, odds are the Senate will go along with it and the President will sign it into law. If the issues Gerson calls on the President to address are so important to the nation's future, why isn't he livid that his own party not only sits on its hands but actively obstructs any Democratic effort to give them life?

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