Monday, February 13, 2012

Progressive policies hiding in plain sight

I'm beginning to see that if you want to find where President Obama is pursuing his most progressive policies, you need to look beyond the "outrage of the moment" coming from both the left and the right to find what he's hidden in plain sight - but no one is noticing.

Let me give you a couple of examples:

First of all, while the left was screaming about the lack of a public option in health care reform, the bill included the most massive expansion of public health care in our lifetimes - by making about 15 million more people eligible for Medicaid. In addition, there were things in the bill like the "bomb" Rick Unger talked about - medical loss ratios - which will challenge the very basis of for-profit health care.

Secondly, while the left was outraged about the 2 year extension of the Bush tax cuts, President Obama was getting another $383 billion in stimulus for the economy.

Finally, while everyone was just sure that President Obama had caved on the debt ceiling deal, we now know that he was laying the groundwork for the possibility of the largest reduction in military spending in our lifetimes.

So today President Obama will release his latest federal budget. I'm sure that all the talk coming from both the left and the right will be about his proposed tax increases for the wealthy and investments in infrastructure, education and jobs.

Those are all important policies. But what will likely go unnoticed is something I read about a few days ago.

The White House believes it’s figured out how to get more money for clean energy programs touted by President Obama without having it become political road kill in the wake of the Solyndra controversy: Put it in the Pentagon.

While details are thin on the ground, lawmakers who work on both energy and defense spending policy believe the 2013 budget request to be delivered to Congress on Monday probably won’t include big increases for wind and solar power through the Energy Department, a major target for Republicans since solar-panel maker Solyndra defaulted last year on a $535 million loan guarantee from the DOE.

But they do expect to see increases in spending on alternative energy in the Defense Department, such as programs to replace traditional jet fuel with biofuels, supply troops on the front lines with solar-powered electronic equipment, build hybrid engine tanks and aircraft carriers, and increase renewable energy use on military bases.

This strikes me as one of President Obama's most brilliant moves...the greening of the military. As I've said before, our defense budget is over twice that of the entire national budget of countries like Germany. If the military goes green, it will have a HUGE impact not only on global warming, but on clean energy development in general. And the military loves it because it contributes to their security should access to oil from unstable foreign markets be limited.

The military support for this means that most Republicans will be pressured to be on board. But they'll likely have to stay quiet about it in order to maintain their position of calling climate change a hoax.

Liberals tend to have a knee-jerk negative response to ANY military spending but will have a hard time complaining about this level of investment in clean energy. And so they will find themselves in a bit of a conundrum as well.

In the end, I don't expect this part of President Obama's budget proposal to get much attention - even as its likely to be the part that actually passes. But it will go down as one of the President's most progressive achievements that will impact all of us for decades to come.


  1. What an amazing, brilliant man! And I'm so glad that you're, well, such a smarty pants and help us understand him!

    1. Aw shucks, thanks mlf.

      What we're seeing with this man is a glorious example of brains beating verbal braun every time. You'd think that alone would be enough to get progressives to cheer him on. But alas, the addiction to macho runs deep - even on the left.

    2. This is so cool, Smartypants. Good eye for catching this. You're absolutely right about how brilliant this move is.

      Addiction to macho doesn't seem to be as rampant as the addiction to complaining. The left spent so much of its time complaining about the Bush Admin. that they never learned how to turn off the spigot and relax. They want to fight. Period. Be it podium pounding, verbal smackdowns, passive aggressive behavior or just plain being mean, they are so busy screaming they can't listen to even the word Yes.

  2. fighting the good fight. One win at a time. Once again finding the way to win without rubbing someone's nose in it.

    I have no problem with social good coming from the Pentagon. It seems that everytime government goes on a social enhancement kick, the benefits always outweigh the inevitable multiplier overruns: '60S Space Race, BART, '70s telecom satelites, DARPA, and on and on. All were projects that were considered little more than attempts at window dressing and were decried as never being worth the cost.

  3. hey, I just got off the Gallup Presidential Approval poll site and the three day average over the weekend was +1 approval and -1 disapproval: ie people think better of the Prez!

    I've been watching this because of the interchange on the contraception foorah. I had told Chris Weigant (whom I read quite often) that his post on Friday got the expected reaction of the population exactly backwards (he thought it was handled clumsily and would hurt Obama). His response was that he was waiting for some kind of poll that would verify what I had to say. I pointed to the Personhood Amendment debacle in MS, and he replied that possibly the contraception furor was an issue that would cause a short term drop, but a long term enhancement.

    Yet another blogger buying into the conventional wisdom of 35 years ago.

  4. I'm hoping once President Obama gets into full campaign mode, he'll be communicating all this better than it has been.

    Tien Le -- I agree with your point, and I've been part of the problem. When you've been complaining for eight years (with cause), it's hard to turn it off. (Remember when GWB seemed genuinely baffled and angry that Kerry had a "litany of complaints"?)

    That Solyndra "scandal" got a ridiculous amount of traction on the Right. (Apparently the bar for what constitutes a scandal has been lowered tremendously; worse stuff happened about twice a week during the Bush administration, yet I hardly ever heard the word "scandal".)

    Speaking of putting energy research in the Pentagon budget -- just for a fun thought, I wonder what DARPA could do if given, say, $100 billion a year to work on fusion power. (We found a way to spend more than that, year after year, on stupid unnecessary wars; why not on something that could benefit everybody on Earth?)

  5. The military NEEDS to be able to deal with the possibility of an interruption in oil supplies, the military NEEDS to be able to deal with the rising sea levels with regard to their own facilities and the social upheaval in countries that are going to be dealing with flooding, etc., the military NEEDS to be ... you get the point.

    While the Republican Congressional leaders can get on their soap box and appeal to their base, the military has no such luxury -- they HAVE to deal with science and facts. Who cares about debates over whether Adam and Eve rode their pet dinosaurs to school 5,000 years ago ... the bottom line to the military is that sea levels ARE rising, and are predicted to rise more. The bottom line to the military is that peak oil HAS (or very soon will) occurred, and they need to keep their war machines running on alternatives.

    PBO deserves credit as far as it goes, but somehow I think even Bush would be getting an earful at this point ... well, that's perhaps too optimistic given Rumsfeld and Cheney ... aww, shucks I guess I'll have to give PBO the credit!!! :))

    1. LOL - reluctance but final capitulation on giving PBO the credit works for me.

      What a great point about the military having to deal with science & facts.

      And so beyond making sure they're prepared, the military is likely to lead the way on clean energy development and making it all affordable for the rest of us who have to continue to live with the results of Republican fantasyland denial.