...First, Mr. Obama should scrap his proposal for $150 billion in business tax cuts, which would do little to help the economy. Ideally he’d scrap the proposed $150 billion payroll tax cut as well, though I’m aware that it was a campaign promise.
Money not squandered on ineffective tax cuts could be used to provide further relief to Americans in distress — enhanced unemployment benefits, expanded Medicaid and more. And why not get an early start on the insurance subsidies — probably running at $100 billion or more per year — that will be essential if we’re going to achieve universal health care?
...The Romer-Bernstein report acknowledges that “a dollar of infrastructure spending is more effective in creating jobs than a dollar of tax cuts.” It argues, however, that “there is a limit on how much government investment can be carried out efficiently in a short time frame.” But why does the time frame have to be short?
As far as I can tell, Mr. Obama’s planners have focused on investment projects that will deliver their main jobs boost over the next two years. But since unemployment is likely to remain high well beyond that two-year window, the plan should also include longer-term investment projects.
And bear in mind that even a project that delivers its main punch in, say, 2011 can provide significant economic support in earlier years. If Mr. Obama drops the “jump-start” metaphor, if he accepts the reality that we need a multi-year program rather than a short burst of activity, he can create a lot more jobs through government investment, even in the near term.
Still, shouldn’t Mr. Obama wait for proof that a bigger, longer-term plan is needed? No. Right now the investment portion of the Obama plan is limited by a shortage of “shovel ready” projects, projects ready to go on short notice. A lot more investment can be under way by late 2010 or 2011 if Mr. Obama gives the go-ahead now — but if he waits too long before deciding, that window of opportunity will be gone.
One more thing: even with the Obama plan, the Romer-Bernstein report predicts an average unemployment rate of 7.3 percent over the next three years. That’s a scary number, big enough to pose a real risk that the U.S. economy will get stuck in a Japan-type deflationary trap.
So my advice to the Obama team is to scrap the business tax cuts, and, more important, to deal with the threat of doing too little by doing more. And the way to do more is to stop talking about jump-starts and look more broadly at the possibilities for government investment.
Frankly, Barry O., you should not be worried about what the Republicans and your University of Chicago buddies think about the economy. Or anything else. Their free market deregulation of securities and derivatives landed us in this mess, and the huge drop in revenue their tax cuts have already caused is keeping us owned by the international banks.
But like so many other things, Barry O. and his owners don't want us to look at the bodies floating in the water under the bridge.
WASHINGTON — President-elect Barack Obama signaled in an interview broadcast Sunday that he was unlikely to authorize a broad inquiry into Bush administration programs like domestic eavesdropping or the treatment of terrorism suspects...
Mr. Obama added that he also had “a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”
“And part of my job,” he continued, “is to make sure that, for example, at the C.I.A., you’ve got extraordinarily talented people who are working very hard to keep Americans safe. I don’t want them to suddenly feel like they’ve got spend their all their time looking over their shoulders.”
The Bush administration has authorized interrogation tactics like waterboarding that critics say skirted federal laws and international treaties, and domestic wiretapping without warrants. But the details of those programs have never been made public, and administration officials have said their actions were legal under a president’s wartime powers...
The issue will also be an important early test of his relationship with conservatives in Congress and the country’s intelligence agencies; both groups oppose any further review.
On other terrorism issues, Mr. Obama suggested in the interview that his approach might be more measured. He said the closing of the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, which once seemed to be an early top objective, was not likely to happen during the first 100 days of his administration.
“It is more difficult than I think a lot of people realize,” Mr. Obama said, “and we are going to get it done. But part of the challenge that you have is that you have a bunch of folks that have been detained, many of whom who may be very dangerous, who have not been put on trial or have not gone through some adjudication.”
... Lawyers who represented Bush administration officials over the years expressed little surprise that Mr. Obama’s legal and national security team had lost whatever appetite it might have had for delving into alleged misdeeds of the Bush years.
“A new president doesn’t want to look vengeful,” said a former Bush White House lawyer, Bradford A. Berenson, who was a Harvard law classmate of Mr. Obama and has represented administration figures as a private lawyer, “and the last thing a new administration wants to do is spend its time and energy rehashing the perceived sins of the old one.
“No matter how much the Obama administration’s most extreme supporters may be screaming for blood, the president himself doesn’t seem to share that bloodlust.”
Moreover, any effort to conduct a wider re-examination would almost certainly provoke a backlash at the country’s intelligence agencies.
Mark Lowenthal, who was the assistant director for analysis and production at the C.I.A. from 2002 to 2005, said if agents were criminally investigated for doing something that top Bush administration officials asked them to do and that they were assured was legal, intelligence officers would be less willing to take risks to protect the country.
“There are just huge costs to the day-to-day operation of intelligence,” Mr. Lowenthal, now the president of the Intelligence and Security Academy, said of a potential investigation. He added that he saw no benefit to such an effort because, he said, the public was not clamoring for it..."
You know kind of like investigating