I realize I’ve been neglecting my blog recently, but my excuse is that I had the flu last week. I know that having a flu shot is supposed to prevent this, but as the nurse practitioner said, “It probably made a 5 to 7 day event into a 3 to 5 day one.” Didn’t make me feel better, but at least I only missed 3 days of work. Have to be there to help the City of Boston spend the stimulus bucks, you know.
So, how is the new President – and he is new even though it seems forever already – doing? As Eugene Robinson wrote in the Washington Post on February 17
This is a presidency on steroids. Barack Obama’s executive actions alone would be enough for any new administration’s first month: decreeing an end to torture and the Guantanamo prison, extending health insurance to more children, reversing Bush-era policies on family planning. That the White House also managed to push through Congress a spending bill of unprecedented size and scope — designed both to provide an economic stimulus and reorder the nation’s priorities — is little short of astonishing.
I do wish that the Recovery Act (aka Stimulus Bill) had fewer tax cuts and more infrastruture, education, and arts money, but as Chris Hayes wrote in The Nation
Whatever its shortcomings, there is a lot of good stuff in the bill. As just one example: my parents were visiting this weekend and the whole time my dad, who works in public health in poor neighborhoods, was receiving promising updates on his blackberry about just how much potential funding there would be for some of their programs.
As I said, there is money to spend. So what of the Republican argument that taking the money means that there will be the expectation that programs – which the states can’t afford – will continue after the two years of the Recovery Act? The main point of contention seems to be extention of unemployment benefits. I’m afraid I don’t undertand the argument. Hopefully in two years, other parts of the Recovery Act will have created jobs and there will no longer be a need to have massive unemployment benefits.
I have to admit that I worry about the Obama administration’s reluctance to consider prosecuting Bush administration officials. I worry that we will somehow backslide on things like extraordinary rendition and the right of the prisoners to come to trial. But then I am reassured by articles like Alexander Zaitchik’s recent post on AlterNet titled 5 Great Progressive Moves by Obama You Might Have Missed. Zaitchik lists high speed rail funding, arms control, review of faith-based initiatives, broadband, and a reform minded drug czar.
Beyond all these concrete actions is political savvy. I believe that Obama’s getting out of Washington to sell the Recovery Act and explain it to ordinary people in a setting where people were not pre-screened for their political views, was a smart move and may have saved it as Congress saw the reactions of those in the audience. While it didn’t get any Republican votes, I think it helped with some of the Blue Dog Democrats. We also saw his attempts to be bipartisan which were rebuffed by the Republicans. As Chris Hayes points out
On the politics side of the ledger, Ben Smith notes Obama’s emphasis on the tax cuts in the bill. I’m not necessarily a fan, though politically it’s true that every single Republican member of congress can now be accused of “Voting against the biggest tax cut in history” come next election.” Clearly, this hasn’t escaped the White House’s notice.