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Posted at 10:38 AM ET, 11/30/2010

We can't blame Rahm, after all

By Adam Serwer

The left has long targeted Rahm Emanuel as the primary reason the White House continues to trade away core liberal priorities in the quixotic quest for bipartisanship. But Rahm is now long gone. And the White House continues to lead with its chin.

It would be nice if we could say the White House has been fighting with Republicans over an extension of the Bush tax cuts for top earners, but in reality it's more like they've been meekly not surrendering. Then yesterday, in advance of negotiations with Republican leaders over the way forward, the Obama administration inexplicably announced a pay freeze for federal workers.

Not only is such a freeze bad policy in the middle of a recession caused by low aggregate demand, since federal workers are consumers like everyone else, but it reflects a longstanding pattern of preemptive concessions to conservatives without securing anything in return. Even if, as Ezra Klein suggests is a possibility, the freeze was meant to preempt an even harsher attack on federal workers from Republicans, it still could have been used in exchange for something tangible.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker-Elect John Boehner have already announced their intention not to compromise. So the president has just made a goodwill gesture towards people who bear him no good will and who have no intention of offering any quarter whatsoever.

Prior to Rahm 's departure, he was a favored target of liberals -- including sometimes myself -- who felt as though he was responsible for the White House preemtively moving to the right at the slightest sign of political turbulence. Now that we don't have Rahm to kick around anymore, it's clear that this is just how this White House and this president operate. It bodes ill both for the economy and an administration whose political fortunes are ultimately tied to its revival.

Adam Serwer is a staff writer at The American Prospect, where he writes his own blog.

By Adam Serwer  | November 30, 2010; 10:38 AM ET
Categories:  House GOPers, Senate Republicans, deficit, taxes  
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Comments

Thank you, Adam, for admitting what other know-it-all bloggers refuse to admit: you have little idea as to what is actually going on in Congress and the WH.

I read post after post during the past 2 years of Obama or Rahm are thinking about doing this or that.

But truth is, you have no idea!

And maybe, just maybe, that is because Pres Obama believes that freezing salaries, HCR with no public option, etc are actually good policies, not just political positioning. Maybe that never occured to you?

Posted by: kromerm | November 30, 2010 10:43 AM | Report abuse

This is ALL just spin to help Rahm in his race for Mayor, in which Rahm is meeting unexpected resistance.

.

Posted by: RainintheForest | November 30, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

Hate to break it to ya Greg, there just isn't any objective evidence that Obama has an IQ >100. NOT a good thing when trying to occupy the toughest Exec position in the world.

Posted by: illogicbuster | November 30, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse

"maybe, just maybe, that is because Pres Obama believes that freezing salaries, HCR with no public option, etc are actually good policies,"

Then let him run as a Republican.

Posted by: wbgonne | November 30, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

All I can say is after the lame duck I'm going back to local and state politics. It is becoming clear the next two years will be a dead zone for liberals at the national level. Next thing you know we'll be throwing all the dead beat unemployed and debt burdened middle class, working class, and working poor in debtor's prison. Out of sight, out of mind. It's not the first time I've become disillusioned with our political system, but it's one of the worst.

Is anyone taking bets on Obama's 11ty millionth position on tax cuts being linked to unemployment benefits extension?

Posted by: lmsinca | November 30, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse

wbgonne: "Then let him run as a Republican"

In that case, he would also need to repeal his own HCR, freeze hiring and dismiss global warming.

Since nearly ALL Dems also voted for his HCR and other initiatives, I'd say he really is a Democrat.

Posted by: kromerm | November 30, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

"In that case, he would also need to repeal his own HCR"

Not worth a bucket of spit and will probably be declared unconstitutional because of the individual mandate, which was only necessary because there is no public option,

"freeze hiring"

Just watch.

" and dismiss global warming"

I don't care if he believes in Santa Claus. What is Obama going to do about global warming? Nothing.

"Since nearly ALL Dems also voted for his HCR and other initiatives, I'd say he really is a Democrat."

And how'd that work out in the midterms for these alleged Democrats?

Posted by: wbgonne | November 30, 2010 11:07 AM | Report abuse

"All I can say is after the lame duck I'm going back to local and state politics. It is becoming clear the next two years will be a dead zone for liberals at the national level. Next thing you know we'll be throwing all the dead beat unemployed and debt burdened middle class, working class, and working poor in debtor's prison. Out of sight, out of mind. It's not the first time I've become disillusioned with our political system, but it's one of the worst."

Imsinca: I am wracked with despair at what a colossal failure Obama and the Democrats are. I am disengaging from national politics until I find true Liberals to support. Maybe you're right and it has to start at the local level. In any event, it is now clear that Liberals are frozen out of Washington DC entirely. Obama and the Democrats have abandoned me and now I am abandoning them. Soros is right: don't waste your time and money on Obama and the Democrats. They are betrayers of Liberalism and enablers of the Radical Right Wing that is bringing the country low. It is now clear that Obama and the Democrats will not stand up to Conservatives. Obama's bizarre insistence upon kowtowing to his enemies and betraying his supporters has finally done it for me. What an epic disaster Obama is.

Posted by: wbgonne | November 30, 2010 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Well, what Obama the Wimp giveth (=the Federal worker pay freeze), the Democrats in Congress must taketh away, by preventing this from happening. This is another reason why Nancy Pelosi was elected Minority Leader in the next Congress: to keep Obama in check.

Posted by: dozas | November 30, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: dozas "This is another reason why Nancy Pelosi was elected Minority Leader in the next Congress: to keep Obama in check."
--------------------------------------------
As Minority Leader in the House, Piglosi will have ZERO power to do anything other than assure more Repub votes in 2012...

Posted by: illogicbuster | November 30, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

For those of us who care about global warming, and the latest science is not good at all, forecasting that we will reach the 2 degrees C rise by 2020 or so and extremely dangerous 4 degree C rise in the 2060s to 2070s, within the lifetime of at least the children of some folks here, we need to look beyond the federal level. States and cities can be enlisted to adopt policies and programs to cope with rising sea levels and storm surges if you are on the coast, droughts, severe storms and the like, as well as programs to reduce emissions and warming such as reflective roof coatings, energy-saving measures etc. California is leading the way and any state or city that doesn't want to follow the Koch Brothers back into the 20th Century can join in. Local action is where it's at for the foreseeable future.

Posted by: Mimikatz | November 30, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

wbgonne

I am going back full throttle to my charity work. It's the only way I'm able to affect a positive outcome. I never gave it up but I let myself be dragged back into the political arena by hope. I am reminded once again that all politics are local and charity begins at home. As a glass half full gal, I'll keep my eyes on the political landscape for any improvement but as my husband constantly reminds me, "hope for the best, but expect the worst".

See y'all later.

Posted by: lmsinca | November 30, 2010 11:35 AM | Report abuse

wbgonne: "I don't care if he believes in Santa Claus. What is Obama going to do about global warming? Nothing"

Except, of course, working with the House to push through Cap & Trade, only to be filibustered by GOP in the Senate.

Also, his EPA declared CO2 a pollutant that can be controlled.

But don't allow those silly facts to get in the way of your misplaced anger.

Posted by: kromerm | November 30, 2010 11:36 AM | Report abuse

wbgonne:

"Then let him run as a Republican."

The proper salary level of public employees is a matter for political ideology?

Posted by: ScottC3 | November 30, 2010 11:41 AM | Report abuse

"Local action is where it's at for the foreseeable future."

Exactly Mimikatz. Thank God Californians didn't reject the progress we've made so far and hopefully we'll be setting the stage for the rest of the country. It's an uphill battle given the economy though. I read somewhere that Republicans have lost CA for at least a generation.

Posted by: lmsinca | November 30, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

"Also, his EPA declared CO2 a pollutant that can be controlled."

Yeah, and then what?

"But don't allow those silly facts to get in the way of your misplaced anger."

They are silly facts but my anger is anything but misplaced. And I am not alone as Obama and the Democrats are about to learn the very hard way.

Later.

Posted by: wbgonne | November 30, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

I stopped going to the American Prospect because of these sorts of inane posts, and I'm sorry to continue to see them here. The pre-Serwer Plum Line had a much lower recommended daily intake of vitamin h(ysteria).

Posted by: CaptainMcGlew | November 30, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

There has been a lot of talk on this blog and elsewhere about false equivalencies when it comes to presenting Republican and Democratic positions in the media. But there's also a lot of false equivalency from part of the left blogosphere when it comes to comparing Obama policies and Republican policies. So a lot of you plan to take your ball and go home? Grow up, people. Governing a democratic country well can never mean giving 20% of the people everything they want, whether they're on the left or the right. It's simply not possible and, more, it's not even wise.

Posted by: AllButCertain | November 30, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

@Adam: "Not only is such a freeze bad policy in the middle of a recession caused by low aggregate demand, since federal workers are consumers like everyone else"

Um, it's a freeze, not a cut. A freeze after federal pay scales have gone up tremendously over the past decade is not "a bad policy in the middle of a recession". From USA Today:

"The number of federal workers earning $150,000 or more a year has soared tenfold in the past five years and doubled since President Obama took office, a USA TODAY analysis finds."

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2010-11-10-1Afedpay10_ST_N.htm

And don't forget this:

http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/income/2010-08-10-1Afedpay10_ST_N.htm?loc=interstitialskip

"Federal workers have been awarded bigger average pay and benefit increases than private employees for nine years in a row. The compensation gap between federal and private workers has doubled in the past decade."

@Adam: "but it reflects a longstanding pattern of preemptive concessions to conservatives without securing anything in return."

This isn't a concession to conservatives. To quote Ace of Spades: "Here's my thought...not good enough. Not even close. Obama has run up the size of the federal workforce to historic levels. There are now more federal employees making more than $150,000/year than ever before and all we are doing is eliminating some raises? That's not even a good start."

This is a typical Republican response to the pay freeze. So, it's not even a concession to Republicans.

"Even if, as Ezra Klein suggests is a possibility, the freeze was meant to preempt an even harsher attack on federal workers from Republicans, it still could have been used in exchange for something tangible."

No, because the conservative base would not have been remotely satisfied with the pay freeze. Which doesn't including a hiring freeze, so the Federal government can continue to higher new federal workers, so there's no guarantee this "pay freeze" will act as any kind of restraint on government growth whatsoever. Got a $150+ administrator whose disgruntled they aren't getting their scheduled pay increase this year? Hire them an assistant. Done and done.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | November 30, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

wbgonne posts are the whining sound of a liberal who has health insurance coverage complaining that he didn't get everything he wanted. Now he's going to hold his breath and ignore the 30+ million who will have health insurance thanks to HCR.

Posted by: steveh46 | November 30, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

LOL.

So, all that anti-Rahm stuff was just a bunch of speculation by those who make a living by being anti-establishment. Who would have guessed!

Oh the bites and bytes wasted by the Hamsher's and Huffington's of the world.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | November 30, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

All, very big news on ethanol subsidies:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/11/bipartisan_group_of_senators_c.html

Posted by: Greg Sargent | November 30, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Kevin, since you're here today, I've been meaning to thank you for posting all the book suggestions a week or so ago. I always like it when people here offer their ideas on a wider sphere than just the politics of the moment. I think it broadens the conversation in a useful way.

And speaking of that, I strongly recommend Isabel Wilkerson's new deeply researched and reported book on the black migration from the South, The Warmth of Other Suns. It seems like a new, foundational work on race in the 20th century, and it's very well written with a great deal of vitality. It's also even-handed, which makes it even more powerful,

Posted by: AllButCertain | November 30, 2010 12:13 PM | Report abuse

At this point it might be helpful if we had a Serwer to English translation:

inexplicably announced: they didn't explain this to me and they certainly didn't ask me if I thought it was a good idea. They just went and did it. The nerve!

bad policy in the middle of a recession: Some "economist" thought so anyway. I linked to that opinion which is almost as good as linking to actual facts.

Ezra Klein suggests is a possibility: Ezra is the MAN. I try to keep on his good side by referring to him often. Maybe he'll let me guest blog there once in awhile too. Cha ching.

John Boehner have already announced their intention not to compromise: Nothing worse than letting mere principles get in the way of some inside baseball. How dare those conservative politicians? I mean, actually doing politics? Everyone knows that is the exclusive territory of the Schumer esque liberal crowd.

Prior to Rahm 's departure, he was a favored target of liberals -- including sometimes myself --: OK I admit it. The fact that Rahm was slightly to the right of Marx and Engels really ticked me off and I said so. Not that a lot of people noticed.

It bodes ill both for the economy and an administration whose political fortunes are ultimately tied to its revival: Everyone knows that the liberal approach is the only correct choice for America. Look how well it has worked so far. And look how well it has worked everywhere else that it has been tried!

Posted by: skipsailing28 | November 30, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse

AllButCertain: You are welcome, and thanks for the suggestion. I will take a look at it. Generally, I recommend old books--because I like to recommend the books that still have me thinking, 20 years later. Thus, I believe that Marvin Minsky's Society of Mind is something everybody should read if given a chance (I plan to re-read it in the not too distant future), because it's not only an informative book on artificial intelligence, it really has some great ways to think about human intelligence, and how we think, how our memories work, etc. And, of course, Stephen Jay Gould's the Mismeasure of Man is the best book I ever read on the questionable history and largely worthless results regarding standardized intelligence testing. And Drexler's Engines of Creation is still the best conceptual book, re: nanotechnology. And it's also the first place I ever encountered the term.

So, I'm still recommending them. but I will endeavor to add Isabel Wilkerson to the list . . . but if it doesn't come out in audiobook form, it may be a while before I read it. ;)

I also have recommendations regarding courses of audio study from The Teaching Company. I've been through a lot of them, and the one on World War II, the History of Egypt (and the one on the Great Pharaos) and the Economics one are the best I've listened to. And I love the idea of courses of study on tape, but some of the instructors are almost impossible to listen to. And some are really good. And then, some are good, like the calculus courses, and yet I have trouble keeping up.

I need to read more actual, physical books. With paper pages. This, I freely admit.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | November 30, 2010 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Kevin, thanks for the response and ideas. I read mostly on e-books now as it's easier for me. But you're reminding me that audio books are another good alternative.

Posted by: AllButCertain | November 30, 2010 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Pay freezes are actually not really very Republican or conservative. The preference would be to transform the system into something closer to merit based pay, i.e. no more automatic raises and at the same time reduce the federal workforce by consolidating some operations and eliminating others. Pay freezes implies that you are treating the best federal employees the same as the worse federal employees.

Obama should have adopted something closer to his "Race to the Top" initiative for public schools to the Federal Work force.

Posted by: jnc4p | November 30, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

@AllButCertain: "But you're reminding me that audio books are another good alternative."

You must check out Audible.com. So many great books on .mp3 form. Pretty much all my recent fiction I've bought from Audible. It's a great way to find and listen to books. I listened, rather than read, all the Harry Potter books, and it was a great way to experience them.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | November 30, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

No time to write in detail today, but Kevin, I got your back. You have it exactly right.

And I have to respond to wbgonne, just for a second: Your "yeah, and then what?" response belies the unreasonable impatience of many on the left (and believe me, I'm just about as left as they come--I've been thrown in jail for blocking a logging road; co-founded an environmental organization that, among other things, got a REPUBLICAN Senator to vote for ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; started an organic food co-op in an urban food desert; lobbied Senators for single payer health care; and the list goes on).

In less than two years, Obama has instituted new vehicle emissions standards and unprecedented investments in green energy and infrastructure. Yes, cap and trade is dead right now, but that is because of GOP filibusters. Have a little bit of patience before you rush to conclusions, for crying out loud. With a President Obama and Dems still controlling the Senate, we at least have people that will LISTEN to us (and often push for good things that can actually be achieved). That includes the EPA--now is not the time to walk away, now is the time to keep pushing as hard as we can with the understanding that it takes time and patience to develop the smartest and most effective strategy.

Posted by: billy_burdett | November 30, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

mr burdett, I hope you don't mind if those that disagree with you push back. We too are gathering our strength. I believe that a fight is looming within America. Those who oppose much of the liberal agenda are learning to use the liberal's techniques against them.

A splendid time is guaranteed for all.

Posted by: skipsailing28 | November 30, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

skipsailing28, when conservatives learn to use facts and reason to make their case I know I'll welcome it.

Posted by: steveh46 | November 30, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

Oh, thanks steve. I needed yet another dose of liberal condescencion today.

it seems to me that both sides make the same argument: those guys rely on emotion and NOT on fact. My side relies exclusively on facts.

It just isn't true. There are many factually based arguments for conservatism, but if you are intellectually pre disposed to dismiss such arguments, what better method than a blithe and thoughtless one such as you've offered here?

Posted by: skipsailing28 | November 30, 2010 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Wow, skipsailing, you certainly manage to make yourself sound pretty sinister--is that your intention?

Posted by: billy_burdett | November 30, 2010 6:21 PM | Report abuse

Wow, skipsailing, you certainly manage to make yourself sound pretty sinister--is that your intention?

Posted by: billy_burdett | November 30, 2010 6:21 PM | Report abuse

skipsailing28, you could use humor to make a case too. Wouldn't hurt.

Posted by: steveh46 | November 30, 2010 9:02 PM | Report abuse

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