Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Tortoise and the Hare

Republicans seem to have a love of short-term thinking. Whatever they see as helping their cause in the next election seems to be their guiding principle.

Today, Republican Presidential contender Mitt Romney demonstrates this by criticizing the tax cut deal and ends with this:

President Obama has reason to celebrate. The deal delivers short-term economic stimulus, and it does so at the very time he wants it most, before the 2012 elections.

He's admitting that the deal will deliver "short-term economic stimulus" and thinks that's a bad thing (?)...because it helps Obama in the 2012 election.

Charles Krauthhamer made pretty much the same argument a couple of days ago.

In the deal struck this week, the president negotiated the biggest stimulus in American history, larger than his $814 billion 2009 stimulus package. It will pump a trillion borrowed Chinese dollars into the U.S. economy over the next two years - which just happen to be the two years of the run-up to the next presidential election. ...

At great cost that will have to be paid after this newest free lunch, the package will add as much as 1 percent to GDP and lower the unemployment rate by about 1.5 percentage points. That could easily be the difference between victory and defeat in 2012.

Again, he's not happy that unemployment will be reduced by 1.5% because that will help Obama in 2012.

On another issue, the short-term thinking about resistance to the individual mandate in health care reform might come back to haunt them too.

The individual mandate was created by conservatives who realized that it was the only way to get universal coverage into the private market. Otherwise, insurers turn away the sick, public anger rises, and, eventually, you get some kind of government-run, single-payer system, much as they did in Europe, and much as we have with Medicare.

If Republicans succeed in taking it off the table, they may sign the death warrant for private insurers in America: Eventually, rising cost pressures will force more aggressive reforms than even Obama has proposed, and if conservative judges have made the private market unfixable by removing the most effective way to deal with adverse selection problems, the only alternative will be the very constitutional, but decidedly non-conservative, single-payer path.

Finally, we all know that the demographics of this country don't favor the Republicans over the long-term. In particular, their relentless dismissal of the major concerns of Latinos might be paying off well with their white and generally older Tea Party base. But they don't seem capable of understanding the down side of such a strategy.

Meanwhile, the Democrats have the ultimate long-term thinker in the White House.

So, my job is to make sure that we have a North Star out there, what is helping people live out their lives; what is giving them more opportunity; what is growing the economy; what is making us more competitive. At any given juncture there are going to be times that my preferred option, what I am absolutely, positively sure is right, I can’t get done. And so then, my question is, does it make sense for me to tack a little bit this way or that way because I am keeping my eye on the long-term and the long fight. Not my day-to-day news cycle, but where am I going over the long-term.

We all know that our crisis-driven 24 hour new cycle is addicted to the sprint rather than the long-distance race. But when it comes to a contest between the tortoise and the hare, I know where I'm going to place my bets.

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