Monday, May 4, 2009


Robert Reich explores the question of Why Obama is Taking on Corporate Tax Havens, as the president takes aim at foreign sheltered income, especially when there are so many more important things to do. This now becomes the, oh I'll say, 67th thing that people on both sides of the aisle have questioned:
So why take them on now, when the President is also taking on universal health insurance and global warming, and trying to get the economy going again?
Reich's post is typically interesting, as he knocks down a couple of reasons. Professor/Secretary Reich doesn't believe that closing these loopholes will necessarily save American jobs, as the companies might have less money to employ people, or might just leave the U.S. altogether.

He doesn't think Obama is urging a crackdown because he wants to fulfill a campaign promise; after all, he's already backing down on modifications to NAFTA. What could it be?

Reich offers a couple of ideas: 1) Obama may be putting forth a bargaining chip that he can take back in return for support on universal health insurance; and 2) he may be using this as a revenue source to pay for his health plan. Either of these could be true, though we still haven't dealt with the larger question: Why is Obama taking on so much, when he (should be/could be) focusing on the economy with the intensity of a laser?

Here's what I think may be happening. I believe Obama takes a holistic view of America, that he has a vision that encompasses pretty much everything. Further, he knows that he will never have a better chance to implement many of the policies that will get us where he wants to be.

He sees universal health insurance, paid for by relentless efficiencies; a strong economy based on free market principles, but with stepped-up regulation to ensure equity; significant progress toward energy independence; improved education opportunity leading to work opportunity; and a bunch of other stuff. Most importantly, he sees all of these things as parts of a new system, interconnected in necessary ways, rather than as a laundry list of up-or-down items that may or may not be done (which is the typical way Congress works).

I applaud this, even though I disagree with some of the specifics. Personally, I think that the U.S. is going to have to do some serious prioritizing over the next decade or so, and that we may never get back to the bubble-induced trend line that we were on, but that view is not incompatible with Obama's. We could establish a set of priorities that move toward the Obama view of the future, then explore what we might have to do to get there (I'd imagine a serious reduction in what we call "defense" will be required, but that's just one example).

As I've chronicled in this blog in the past, I don't believe in many of Obama's specific prescriptions; he seems as captive of "conventional wisdom" as anyone else. However, given the contradictions into which we're led by the orthodoxy of either party, I'd rather see someone with a vision of America's future try to lead us there, no matter how flawed that vision, than see a continuation of the policy-by-policy, calculated within a strategy for re-election, view that has dominated American politics for far too long.

No comments:

Clicky Web Analytics