Administration: Don’t like our message? No worries. We have a different message...

Administration: Don’t like our message? No worries. We have a different message just for you.


Last week President Obama announced the “Volcker Rule” proposing tough constraints on big banks. During the announcement Barney Frank stood behind the president on the podium in visual support of the policy. As noted in my last post, the Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee then proceeded directly to an interview on CNBC, the media outlet that is arguably the most direct conduit to the banking industry affected by that policy. In the interview Barney Frank soft pedaled the impact of the proposed policy, saying it would not go into effect for 3 – 5 years.

Yesterday, in a background briefing, the administration announced a three year spending freeze on portions of the budget. Since departments with the fastest growing government expenditures like Defense, VA, the State Department, and entitlements are excluded from the “freeze”, it will have a negligible effect on the ballooning deficit. NYT:

“The payoff in budget savings would be small relative to the deficit: The estimated $250 billion in savings over 10 years would be less than 3 percent of the roughly $9 trillion in additional deficits the government is expected to accumulate over that time.”

Shortly after the announcement, Jared Bernstein, economist and economic adviser to Vice President Biden, appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show – the media outlet that is arguably the most direct conduit to the progressive community. Mr. Bernstein proceeds to soft pedal even the very modest impact the policy would have on deficits, almost apologizing for it, and practically promising that the administration will really continue to be the big spenders that the progressives know and love. Maddow wasn’t buying what Jared was selling:

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One cannot help but wonder if the administration is trying to be all things to all people, and risks representing nothing to no one.

I am sure the President will clear all of this up in the State of the Union address tomorrow.

  • mdgeorge

    I’m a little bit surprised to see such a negative reaction to Obama’s efforts here on donklephant. Perhaps I’m just an obamabot but I see these measures as very donklephantian.

    My own experience is that I came to this site as a fairly liberal/progressive, but I’ve been reading posts and comments here trying to really listen to my conservative friends here. And they”ve convinced me (among other things) that the debt really is a big problem. Nevertheless, I still believe that the government has an important role to play in addressing common systemic problems (such as health care and infrastructure).

    These priorities are clearly in tension. (to caricature) Those on the left see any effort to reign in spending as a threat to the government’s social responsibility. Those on the right see any effort by the government invest in solutions to common problems as a giant tax increase for someone or other. In this environment, unfortunately, it seems impossible to take both investment and deficit reduction as high priorities and work to find ways to balance them. And yet, this seems to me like the right thing to do, and it seems to be what the administration is attempting.

    Can’t we at least wait to see what the budget proposals actually are before we slam them as being an empty and/or dangerous effort to appease conservatives? Is there no possibility that the administration is actually trying to do what it promised and understand both sides?

    On the other hand my captcha is “270,000 creators” so maybe the oracle is telling me that these policies really are just a mish-mash of everyone’s dumb ideas :)

  • DK

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head- Obama wants to make everyone happy, something you can’t do and be a leader.

    I just find it extremely ironic that a man who campaigned with the slogan “change” has proved to be so uncommitted to actually changing anything.

  • TerenceC

    MW – I don’t think anyone on either side of this issue loves big spending if it isn’t targeted properly. I also don’t think that either group loves debt, poverty, ignorance. etc. It’s a question of priorities – and cutting potentially beneficial societal expenditures while leaving potentially negative societal expenditures un-touched is short sighted in my opinion.

    The government should be spending money right now since no other area of our economy is doing so with any significance. With a multi-billion dollar budget every year there are areas in every facet of the budget that can be cut. No area should be off the table since there is waste in nearly all of them. I believe that is where the disagreement comes in to play.

    I don’t understand the administrations reluctance to engage in substantive expenditure debate any more than I do the oppositions reluctance to work for the American people rather than against the administration. Every elected member in our government appears weak, indecisive, and counter productive at this point in time – all of them, not just one group or the other.