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Obama the Progressive

John Judis argues it's his reconstruction of the regulatory state:

These days, liberals don’t know whether to feel betrayed by or merely disappointed with Barack Obama. They have gone from decrying his willingness to remove the public option from his health care plan to worrying that, in the wake of Democrat Martha Coakley’s defeat in Massachusetts, he won’t get any plan through Congress. On other subjects, too, from Afghanistan to Wall Street, Obama has thoroughly let down his party’s left flank.

Yet there is one extremely consequential area where Obama has done just about everything a liberal could ask for -- but done it so quietly that almost no one, including most liberals, has noticed. Obama’s three Republican predecessors were all committed to weakening or even destroying the country’s regulatory apparatus: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the other agencies that are supposed to protect workers and consumers by regulating business practices. Now Obama is seeking to rebuild these battered institutions. In doing so, he isn’t simply improving the effectiveness of various government offices or making scattered progress on a few issues; he is resuscitating an entire philosophy of government with roots in the Progressive era of the early twentieth century. Taken as a whole, Obama’s revival of these agencies is arguably the most significant accomplishment of his first year in office.

More here.

By Ezra Klein  |  February 3, 2010; 4:04 PM ET
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I just don't see this as progressive. Is it now progressive to hire people who will fulfill their conditions of employment and will enforce the laws passed in 1972 under Richard Nixon (EPA, Clean WAter Act, OSHA, etc?), or Dwight Eisenhower (labor acts)?

This discussion merely emphasizes how corrupt and immoral Republican rule was, and how completely incompetent the media was in failing to expose the bad faith and conflict of interest at the heart of Bush and Cheney's willful flouting of our laws, to the detriment of American citizens.

Ezra, this is what you should be pointing out, not fluffing Obama's credentials for merely reintroducing the radical concepts of "obeying the law" and "doing your #*&$&%king job."

Posted by: Dollared | February 3, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

"These days, liberals don’t know whether to feel betrayed by or merely disappointed with Barack Obama."

john judis should be more impeccable with his words.
"some liberals," but not "liberals."
it is writing like that, that alters perceptions and truth.

Posted by: jkaren | February 3, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

"Is it now progressive to hire people who will fulfill their conditions of employment and will enforce the laws passed in 1972 under Richard Nixon"

Exactly. Overton would jump out his window if he heard people saying that obeying the law is now "progressive."

In political terms this makes sense. When people aren't watching, Obama can be a huge liberal. When he needs to strike deals on huge legislation, he starts on the right and goes further right from there.

After all, Obama mustn't ever challenge the idea that we're a "center-right nation" in public battles. And forget about reforming the Senate to alter that industry-helping, Dem-coffer-enriching CW. All that's crazy talk; he should stick to ably (ie "progressively") running regulatory agencies.

Posted by: Chris_ | February 3, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

The problem with this should be self evident. Regulatory changes can be reversed at the whim of the executive without TOO much political feedback. When the Republicans get the White House back (and they will in 16 or 20 at the very latest), all of these "substantive", "progressive" reforms can and will be eliminated. Some liberals will whine, as they did when Bush dismantled the EPA, FEMA, MSHA, the SEC and a host of other agencies which would have otherwise have saved lives and prevented hardship had they not been gutted. But the whining will have the same effect in 2021 as it did in 2001: none whatsoever. Don't think there isn't a phalanx of Liberty University grads ready to be appointed to some formerly career civil servant position (or above one). Don't think that Bush's brand of cronyism and incompetence was sui generis.

Legislative change has the distinction (I'd hesitate to call it an advantage) of creating both a statutory status quo and a process hurdle. Executive orders and agency directives do none of that.

Posted by: protonk | February 3, 2010 5:06 PM | Report abuse

That's the job. That's not promoting a liberal priority, that's just being vaguely competent as a President.

Posted by: adamiani | February 3, 2010 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Beginning with 1980's "Reaganomics" working people have been steadily & stealthily robbed by the biggest tax cut & tax shift in the history of the world:

> 40+% income tax cut for the wealthy; (top tax rate cut from the 70%'s to the low 30%'s) - while raising social security taxes a whole lot (for working people) & cutting future benefits in half - resulting in a huge tax shift from the wealthy -to- everybody else: (THE REASON the rich have been getting richer and everybody else has been getting poorer -ever since).

>A second way Republican Economic Policy (Reaganomics) has been used for the past 30 years to shift taxes from the wealthy to everybody else is by use of the "standard deduction and personal exemption". (which is; the amount of money Congress decides it probably should have cost you that year to live indoors, eat, get to work, and take care of any dependents). You get to subtract that amount from your income, then pay taxes on the remaining amount.

By the early 1980's the standard deduction & personal exemption had become so out of step with reality, so ridiculously low, that Time magazine published this fact:

-If the standard deduction and personal exemption of today (early 80's) was the same in constant dollars as it was in the 1970's, a family of 4 would pay no income taxes until their income exceeded $34,000. By that 1970's standard, when would your income be high enough -today- to begin paying taxes?

One 1975 dollar is worth about four 2009 dollars. 4 x $34,000 = $136,000.
Do you make less than $136,000? How much are you paying in taxes this year?

Starting to get an idea of the Massive Proportions of this 30-year-grand theft?
Its negative effects on you, your children, grandchildren, your country and your world?

What are you going to do about it? I don't know about you but I am going to do the same thing I have been doing for the past few decades: Work to Throw Republicans out of office.

Posted by: elme13 | February 4, 2010 7:20 AM | Report abuse

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