Friday, February 06, 2009

Centrism is a pose rather than a philosophy.

The title of this post comes from Paul Krugman today.

Atrios is right, though I’d put it a bit differently: centrism is a pose rather than a philosophy. And to support that pose, the centrists are demanding $100 billion in cuts in the economic stimulus plan — not because they have any coherent argument saying that the plan is $100 billion too big, not because they can identify $100 billion of stuff that should not be done, but in order to be able to say that they forced Obama to move to the center.

Which raises the obvious question: shouldn’t Obama have made a much bigger plan, say $1.3 trillion, his opening gambit? If he had, he could have conceded to the centrists by cutting it to $1.2 trillion, and still have had a plan with a good chance of really controlling this slump. Instead he made preemptive concessions, only to find the centrists demanding another pound of flesh as proof of their centrist power.

This is exactly right. A political centrist's ideal stimulus package isn't objective in the sense before introduction of the bill, there is no $ amount attached to it. The Republicans are certainly objective--they're looking for a stimulus package with $0 spending. The Obama administration's bill is (or should be) objective--the stimulus package should be large enough to prevent a major economic melt down. But the centrist's stimulus package is subjective in the sense that the $ amount that it should be is subject to the president's proposed number--it needs to be somewhat less so that the centrist can claim to be reasonable. But the actual number is undetermined until Obama fires first.

The Obama administration has received an F on their first quiz in Negotiations 101. Let's hope that they're fast learners.

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