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Beneath the Obama agenda, the Obama agenda


Last night, the House of Representatives passed the reconciliation fixes. "And oh, by the way," writes Jon Cohn, "they managed to completely revamp the student loan program along the way. At any other time in recent memory, that would have been a huge accomplishment all its own. Today, it's just part of the mix."

There's been a lot of that this year. The health-care bill, for instance, features not the health-care expansion and associated insurer and delivery-side reforms, but also calorie labeling on all menus in chain restaurants. That would've been a big fight and an unlikely win in another year. The stimulus bill was chock full of this sort of thing, too: Alongside the tax cuts and the state and local aid came $226 billion for investments in infrastructure, in health IT, in green energy. On its own, that would've been the biggest infrastructure and investment bill passed in recent memory, and in the long-run, it'll be seen that way. But because it was part of the stimulus conversation, it's not gotten its moment in the sun.

The Democrats have been pretty good at merging their big-ticket items with their medium-size priorities, and though that's not great for selling the accomplishments, it's been great for getting them done.

Photo credit: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post.

By Ezra Klein  |  March 26, 2010; 7:48 AM ET
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Next: Mark McClellan on the Affordable Care Act: 'It's an important step.'


Is there a list somewhere out there for how many of these accomplishments passed?

We know:

- Health Care Reform
- Fair Pay Act
- CARD Act
- Cash for Clunkers
- American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

Actually, just found the link:

Question, though. Is there a list of the Medium priorities you're talking about out there anywhere?

For example:

- Student Loan Reform
- Menus will now say state Calories
- ???


Posted by: JERiv | March 26, 2010 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Conservatives descend on this thread decrying the supposed sneakiness or illegitimacy of addressing these issues together in 3...2...1...

Posted by: MosBen | March 26, 2010 9:15 AM | Report abuse

The passage of this bill in spite of the people's resistance to socialism demonstrates that the Democratic party is not the party of the people, but is the party of the radical socialists masquerading as moderates.

54% of the American people want the Republicans to try to halt the implementation of this wealth and power transfer scheme. Even 41% of Democrats are cheering on the Republican effort.

The cancer of progressivism is just now being recognized for what it is by Obama's subjects and they don't like what they see.

Takeover of banks, insurance companies, automobile manufactureres, healthcare, and the student loan takeover by big government makes the Department of Education now the sixth largest lender in the US. Now, they are planning on forcing mortgage companies to make modifications trashing contract law standards.

The march toward socialism / communism is stark and swift. Is there any wonder why this administration feels it must sell these ideas *after* they are installed which is the definition of propaganda.

Pray this cancer is cut out of the body in the next two election cycles and America is restored to the land of the free, not the land of the dependents.

Posted by: WrongfulDeath | March 26, 2010 9:15 AM | Report abuse

MosBen- I support most of these initiatives, but I don't like the way they were all bundled together. I know it's a function of the way Congress works now, but I still think it'd be more legitimate if each issue had a seperate bill and a seperate vote. You can be Machiavellian about the outcome, but I think we can all agree that the Dems have been sneaky/crafty in bundling these bills.

Posted by: Quant | March 26, 2010 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Now all they have to do is figure out how to pay for it all. Shouldn't be so hard for such a smart bunch of guys, right?

Posted by: ostap666 | March 26, 2010 9:33 AM | Report abuse

@MosBen: "Conservatives descend on this thread decrying the supposed sneakiness or illegitimacy of addressing these issues together in 3...2...1..."

Actually, that's how you get things done. Both Democrats and Republicans have used such bundling to get things handled many, many times before. And we pretty much know what's in there, so it's not sneaky. And most of it, viewed objectively, should be non-controversial. This isn't a significant step towards socialism or communism. It may be a lot more expensive than we're being told, in the long run, but increasing the federalization of education with No Child Left Behind was a bigger step towards central planning than the current healthcare bill.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | March 26, 2010 9:35 AM | Report abuse

he cancer of progressivism is just now being recognized for what it is by Obama's subjects and they don't like what they see.

Uhhhh... Who's kool-aide have you been drinking? Progressives are getting stronger by the minute. Turn on your TV.

A happy Obama "subject" What drivel.

Posted by: bkc819 | March 26, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

People like Wrongfuldeath make me laugh. Such hyperbolic nonsense is so over the top you have to wonder if people like Wrongfuldeath believe it themselves or if they are just engaging in some theater of the absurd.

Posted by: nisleib | March 26, 2010 9:39 AM | Report abuse

there is real cause for celebration!

Posted by: jkaren | March 26, 2010 9:45 AM | Report abuse

People like Wrongfuldeath make me laugh because it's funny to condemn socialism and laud The People's Resistance(tm).

Posted by: adamiani | March 26, 2010 9:46 AM | Report abuse

@nisleib: Agreed! @Wrongfuldeath is in desperate need of a psychiatrist!

I bet he's a member of the local 'militia'. Ready to fight for te freedom and liberty.

Btw, that whole 'militia' and 'freedom and liberty' stuff is such bs. It's all an excuse to have an outlet (potentially a violent one) towards others. Usually those others being liberals, progressives, homosexuals, and people 'different' than them (be it race, religion, what have you).

To all of the hardcore conservative 'the-world-is-going-to-end-if-you-don't-do-what-I-yell-at-you' folk out there, have you ever wondered why only your type of people have militias? No? Why there's no 'pink brigade' out there militantly pursuing equal rights? Or a 'progresives army' out to defend their borders from ultra-conservative 'capitalists'?

Well, maybe you should...

Posted by: JERiv | March 26, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: MosBen | March 26, 2010 9:15 AM


"The passage of this bill in spite of the people's resistance to socialism"
Posted by: WrongfulDeath | March 26, 2010 9:15 AM --- 9:15


"The cancer of progressivism is just now being recognized for what it is by Obama's subjects and they don't like what they see."

As David Brooks said, "The genius of the conservative movement is its ability to ignore its past rabid opposition to reforms in our society that have proved to be successful, popular and morally just, and to act as though its obstructionism with regard to progressive change in the present is any less wrongheaded than its past positions." I'm thinking you need to read some history of social legislation (Medicare, Civil Rights, whatever), see if there's any patterns (mainly, regional), and see how you fit in that opposition.

Posted by: Chris_ | March 26, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

I gave a half dozen examples of how business sectors have been bought or controlled by the federal govenment in this administration's rein.

No one bothered to refute.

I gave a link to a major pollster to also back up my assertions about the lack of acceptance of this law.

No one bothered to refute. Instead it was all character attack with no subtantive argument.

I guess people shouldn't believe their lyin' eyes?

I'm sorry, but it is what it is. Don't like the name, then pick another. Doesn't change the facts, though...

Posted by: WrongfulDeath | March 26, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Quant, I don't disagree that ideally all of these issues would get dealt with separately, but as Kevin points out, and I completely agree, this is simply how bills get passed. Both sides do it all the time, whether it's something like this or tagging a pet issue onto an important budget or spending bill. It's not ideal, but on the scale of unideal things in Congress, it's pretty low on the list and pretty bipartisan in its usage. My point was only that some posters would jump on this as yet another reason why this bill is a sign of the end times.

Chris, I have to say, I'm pretty impressed with myself right now...

Posted by: MosBen | March 26, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Can anyone clear the following on the student loan overhaul up for me:

This only affects Federal Stafford Loans correct? Not the private loans that banks offer for people who need more to cover tuition and expenses?

Posted by: benmbrennan | March 26, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Yeah, I thought it was just getting them out of the federal student loan business.

Turns out that it actually cost *more* to add a middle man (private lenders) into a program dealing with federal loans to students. Crazy! Naturally, the GOP opposed it in the name of free markets or something.

Posted by: Chris_ | March 26, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Benmbrennan and Chris_,

I think that's right -- just the loans that were federally guaranteed and subsidized. (Actually, as I recall, some are guaranteed but not subsidized -- the interest keeps accruing while you're in school. I think those are included in this too.) I don't think that WrongfulDeath understands that the government was paying for these already, and had been for decades.

I can vouch for the efficiency of direct lending. I was fortunate to go to grad school at one of the universities that first participated in this in the '90s (I think it was a pilot program). I had a couple of ordinary bank-issued Stafford loans and then several direct loans through the Dep't of Ed. Also, I was able to consolidate all of them under the direct lending program after graduation. It worked quite well -- it was probably one of the smoother lending bureaucracies I've dealt with over the years. And, of course, it was cheaper than going through a bank had been.

To answer benmbrennan's other question, I know that my friends who had other private loans in addition to the federally-guaranteed ones were not able to get those under direct lending or to consolidate them later, so I would assume they are still excluded from this.

Posted by: Janine1 | March 26, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

More here....

Posted by: Chris_ | March 26, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

I can't say I'm thrilled with this student loan plan. There may budget savings from administrative efficiency, but it also seems that some of the revenue effect will come from the federal government wringing more money out of students. Please correct me if I'm misunderstanding. The federal government will now loan money at a fixed 6.8% rate. This doesn't sound good to me. The rate on my Stafford Loans (a mix of subsidized and unsubsidized) is variable, currently 4%. I understand the benefits of a fixed rate for planning purposes, but I've never paid more than 6% in a given year on my loans (admittedly we're living in an era of low interest rates).

Obviously cutting costs is a good thing, but this is more than just cutting costs. I'll go ahead a say it. It looks like a hidden tax. The proceeds of which are destined to go to increasing Pell Grants and reducing the deficit. Both laudable goals. But I don't think we should be increasing funding for low-income students (Pell Grant recipients) by extracting money from middle-income students (Stafford Loan recipients). And, of course, current college students are not primarily responsible for current deficits. The blame for those goes to their parents and grandparents, and that's who should be financially responsible for closing the budget gaps. The wealth transfer in this country from the younger to older generations is already dramatic enough.

Posted by: dollarwatcher | March 26, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse

Yes, but all of that occurred with the help of 60 in the Democratic Senate caucus.

Thanks to the people of Massachusetts we don't have that anymore.

Therefore, unless we want to wait years or decades to get anything large and positive, it's time to end the filibuster. A new senate is starting soon (which makes ending the filibuster easier). It's time to plan and work to achieve this now, even if just behind the scenes.

Posted by: RichardHSerlin | March 26, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

"No one bothered to refute"

It appears that this concentration of power to the federal government is kinda OK with Obama's true subjects as well as the expansion of power into the everyday lives.

Tha's all great until the next guy in office is not so nice and then that power is abused. There is a reason the design was to separate the powers of the fed.

Good luck re-learning the same lessons the world learns every 50 years or so.

Posted by: WrongfulDeath | March 27, 2010 8:41 AM | Report abuse

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