The Wall Street Journal Examines Obamanomics

The Wall Street Journal joins in the guessing game as to what Obama really believes on the specifics of policy issues. They find that, on economics, he is to the left of Hillary Clinton and to the right of John Edwards:

One example of how the Illinois Democrat might approach economic policy is an unusual bill he first introduced to little notice shortly after entering the Senate in 2005 — and reintroduced last week. The “Health Care for Hybrids” proposal would offer federal assistance to car makers struggling with hefty retiree health-care costs in exchange for their building more fuel-efficient automobiles.

The legislation requires no sacrifice from labor unions and essentially allows Washington to set environmental goals for a powerful industry. The liberal American Prospect magazine singled out the proposal last year in a list of policy ideas it found promising. “Obama has come up with an audacious proposal.”

While Mr. Obama’s economic platform is still in its formative stages, interviews with his aides and a review of his congressional record and speeches suggest that Obamanomics may place him somewhat to the left of New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, but to the right of former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, another rival for the 2008 nomination. Mrs. Clinton seems to be cultivating the centrist mantle her husband won during his presidency, while Mr. Edwards is courting the party’s labor and grassroots activist base.

Mr. Obama’s views seem to be tempered by President Clinton’s strong push in the 1990s to steer the Democratic Party toward the center, away from the party’s prior support for protectionism and rhetoric about class warfare. Yet Mr. Obama has voted against a trade agreement and backs policies that redistribute income by taking revenue from the wealthiest to fund programs for middle- and lower-income households. Like most Democrats, he favors rolling back at least the portion of the Bush tax cuts that favor upper-income families.

Obama’s brief time in the Senate also placed him in opposition to John Edwards’s base of support–the trial lawyers:

In 2005, he voted for a bill making it easier for defendants to move class-action lawsuits into federal court. He explained his vote at the time by saying he didn’t want plaintiffs shopping for sympathetic judges, and thought large settlements often benefited the lawyers over the plaintiffs. But the measure was opposed by the Democratic Party’s big trial-lawyer backers. California Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who is now speaker of the House, criticized the measure then as an “injustice” to consumers because it would make it harder to bring claims.

While still vague, they review what Obama has said so far on health care policy:

Mr. Obama hasn’t yet settled on the specifics of his health-care plan, but aides say he isn’t interested in doing away with the current employer-based model of health insurance, and may not favor mandates requiring that individuals purchase coverage. That differs from Mr. Edwards, the only major candidate so far to unveil a health plan. Mr. Edwards’s proposal would require that all individuals buy coverage “once insurance is affordable” and require businesses to cover their employees or help finance their health insurance.

Still, Mr. Obama goes further than Mrs. Clinton, pledging to have all individuals covered by the end of his first term. She says it will take eight years to achieve that goal.

Mr. Obama is looking for ways to drive down costs, possibly by creating state or national health-care pools and offering hospitals and doctors financial incentives to convert to electronic record-keeping. Among his health-care goals is to keep costs low for business and find ways to “ensure that business can compete in a global economy and that not all the costs are being beared by individuals,” an aide said.

In his book “The Audacity of Hope,” Mr. Obama proposes having a nonpartisan group design high-quality, cost-effective health coverage, which individuals could purchase through pools, with private insurers competing for their business.

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