Paul Krugman Supports Continuation of Bush/Rove Style Politics

The mind set behind Paul Krugman’s recent attacks on Barack Obama become clear from reading the excerpt from his book, The Conscience of a Liberal which appears at Slate. Krugman’s objections to Obama are over matters far greater than their disagreement over mandates on health care. The two have a totally different philosophy of government, and unfortunately Krugman wants to continue the philosophy of government best attributed in recent years to George Bush and Karl Rove.

While a majority oppose the Bush administration, different people do so for different reasons. Some of us have opposed Republican rule in recent years because Republicans practiced government from the extremes. Under their philosophy of government, the views of 49% of the country could be ignored if they could have the support of 51%. Paul Krugman and some on the left object not to this government from the extremes but simply object to the fact that it isn’t their extreme views which are dominant. Krugman writes:

Democrats, with the encouragement of people in the news media who seek bipartisanship for its own sake, may fall into the trap of trying to be anti-Bushes—of trying to transcend partisanship, seeking some middle ground between the parties.

That middle ground doesn’t exist—and if Democrats try to find it, they’ll squander a huge opportunity. Right now, the stars are aligned for a major change in America’s direction. If the Democrats play nice, that opportunity may soon be gone.

Krugman misunderstands why the Democrats won in 2006, as well as why they were out of power for many years before that. Voters rejected Republican rule largely because of how extreme it became. The problem with the Republican 51% strategy is that as soon as people disagree with parts of the platform there is no room for them in the party. Those who did not agree with Republican extremism in all its forms ultimately voted Democratic as the only option.

Krugman is mistaken if he believes that people voted Democratic because they support everything in what he characterizes as the progressive agenda. There is a middle ground between the two parties. There are also a variety of viewpoints. Many of us lean more libertarian, while rejecting the extremism and fantasy world view of Ron Paul and his supporters. We oppose the war and infringements on civil liberties, recognize a legitimate need for government in some areas, but do not see big government as the solution to all problems. Others might disagree with the Republicans for other reasons and decided to vote Democratic to register their protests. Many people are not ideological and simply recognize that the Republicans are taking the country on the wrong course.

If Paul Krugman’s advice is followed by the Democrats, us independents will quickly abandon them again. Government which only listens to the views of the far left is no better than government which only listens to views of the far right. Some independents will return to the Republicans, who will hopefully be willing to accept a wider range of viewpoints. Others will seek alternatives.

The frustration that government ping-pongs back and forth between two competing groups of narrow minded ideologues led to the Ross Perot movement, and explains the attraction of Ron Paul and Michael Bloomberg to some this year. Barack Obama has also tried to show some understanding of the views of such independents this year, causing him to repeatedly be attacked by Paul Krugman who realizes that if Obama listens to independents and even conservatives he will present a roadblock to shoving his agenda down the throats of all Americans. The result of Democrats following Krugman’s advice will be more hyper-partisanship as each side continues to try to push their agenda while ignoring the views of everyone else, and it won’t be long before there is an anti-Democratic backlash.

Clinton’s Experience

Experience has often been mentioned in coverage of the Democratic race, but it is hard to believe that many people really care. If experience is what most people were voting on (and was what the media initially used to determine who the meaningful candidates were) then Dodd, Biden, and Richardson would be receiving far more attention. None of the top tier of Democratic candidates has experience to match them, but their relative amounts of experience has occasionally been an issue.

With Hillary Clinton often running on experience, The New York Times looks at her experience as first lady today. They begin:

As first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton jaw-boned the authoritarian president of Uzbekistan to leave his car and shake hands with people. She argued with the Czech prime minister about democracy. She cajoled Roman Catholic and Protestant women to talk to one another in Northern Ireland. She traveled to 79 countries in total, little of it leisure; one meeting with mutilated Rwandan refugees so unsettled her that she threw up afterward.

But during those two terms in the White House, Mrs. Clinton did not hold a security clearance. She did not attend National Security Council meetings. She was not given a copy of the president’s daily intelligence briefing. She did not assert herself on the crises in Somalia, Haiti and Rwanda.

And during one of President Bill Clinton’s major tests on terrorism, whether to bomb Afghanistan and Sudan in 1998, Mrs. Clinton was barely speaking to her husband, let alone advising him, as the Lewinsky scandal sizzled.

In seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, Mrs. Clinton lays claim to two traits nearly every day: strength and experience. But as the junior senator from New York, she has few significant legislative accomplishments to her name. She has cast herself, instead, as a first lady like no other: a full partner to her husband in his administration, and, she says, all the stronger and more experienced for her “eight years with a front-row seat on history.”

Reading the full article doesn’t change my previous view of her experience. Her years as first lady do provide her with unique experience, but not enough for her to make any claims as being especially qualified to be president. Experience isn’t something which can be exactly measured, and it is difficult to weigh her experiences as opposed to Obama’s experiences as a professor of Constitutional law, community organizer, and member of the state legislature.

Of the top tier candidates, all three are less experience than the candidates in the second tier. Edwards is the only one who I feel is unqualified to be president, having used a single undistinguished term in the Senate primarily as a stepping stone to run for the 2004 nomination. In comparing Clinton and Obama I’m more concerned with their judgment and the specifics of their actions and beliefs as opposed to trying to compare two totally different types of experience. The problem with Clinton’s experience is that she performed poorly on the one project she has responsibility for, health care. The overly complicated and bureaucratic nature of the health care plan she devised also makes me doubt that I would be happy with other plans she would develop as president.

The article also makes it clear that Hillary Clinton had little input with regards to foreign policy:

Associates from that time said that she was aware of Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden and what her husband has in recent years characterized as his intense focus on them, but that she made no aggressive independent effort to shape policy or gather information about the threat of terrorism.

She did not wrestle directly with many of the other challenges the next president will face, including managing a large-scale deployment — or withdrawal — of troops abroad, an overhaul of the intelligence agencies or the effort to halt the spread of nuclear weapons technology. Most of her exposure to the military has come since she left the White House through her seat on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

In comparing Obama with Clinton (as well as Edwards) on foreign policy, what differentiates them is not their level of experience but judgment. On the key foreign policy decision of recent years, Obama is the only one of the three who got it right. This makes me far more willing to trust Obama on future decisions of war and peace than either Clinton or Edwards.

New York Times Calls For Ending Subsidies to Medicare Advantage Plans

In addition to the prescription drug program, George Bush’s Medicare Plan provided for extra payments to private insurance companies to cover Medicare patients. Under these Medicare Advantage plans it now costs about twelve percent more to cover Medicare patients than under the government program, even though the private companies often cherry pick the healthiest patients. The extra payments also provide incentive for fraud. In light of the problems which have been identified with these plan, The New York Times has an editorial today calling for an elimination of the subsidies:

Heavily subsidized private Medicare plans are continuing to prey on elderly Americans despite state, federal and industry efforts to stop them. It is yet another reason to rein in these operations by eliminating their unjustified subsidies.

These plans are a financial drag on Medicare as the government pays them about 12 percent more, on average, than the same services would cost in the traditional Medicare program. All too often, the private plans are an ethical horror as well.

As Robert Pear reported in The Times last week, unscrupulous insurance agents have tricked people into dropping traditional Medicare coverage and enrolling instead in private plans that do not meet their needs. Agents typically receive $350 to $600 for each patient they enroll in a private plan. Some try to boost sales by pretending to be Medicare officials, forging signatures or hiding the fact that a patient’s doctor will not be part of the private plan. Others barge into homes and use high-pressure tactics to push poor, semiliterate people into a private plan…

Although federal officials claim the number and severity of sales abuses have declined, they remain a dark stain on the ethical performance of private plans. Federal and state agencies need to redouble their efforts to root out abuses, and Congress ought to eliminate the unjustified subsidies that give private plans a competitive advantage over traditional Medicare.