Just read a fascinating piece by Charles Gasparino in the New York Post. It’s an opinion piece and much of it is second-hand, but if it’s true it raises a lot of questions for me. (No rebuttal of this from the White House yet, so for now I believe it.)
The piece is a discussion of a private dinner that Austan Goolsbee and Valerie Jarrett had with about 20 business leaders. Gasparino reports that some of the business leaders told him some startling things, but I want to focus on two.
1. Obama does not really believe that the rich need to pay more. That was just campaign talk.
2. They admit that the stimulus did not really work.
Wow. I don’t know whether to a) presume they were lying because this goes against everything they’ve said before, b) believe them and be happy about finally getting some honestly about this, or c) believe them and be sad that the administration has been knowingly pushing the successes of a failed program for a year and a half. The last one would explain Christina Romer’s departure, given that she had to advocate for policies that her own research said would not work. Given everything we’ve heard in the last two years, I really don’t know what to believe any more. Joe Biden said the stimulus was the perfect size and worked wonders — but after the horribly wrong prediction of “Recovery Summer,” who believes Joe on economic issues any more? The NBER says the recession stopped as of June 2009, which makes me wonder: if the recession was over before any of the stimulus really had any chance to be implemented (because there are, in fact, no shovel ready jobs, as President Obama admitted), how can you honestly claim that the stimulus saved us from another Great Depression? You can’t. It’s like saying that a medicine you took prevented you from dying, when your symptoms were already disappearing before you started taking it. Apparently the administration is finally willing to admit that.
When Obama claimed that he wanted to take Joe the Plumber’s money so he can spread it around, I was horrified. Last week, Claire McCaskill (for whom I gained a lot of respect the week before when I discovered that she’s never requested an earmark), actually said that letting rich people keep their money is “giving them money.” Another Democrat said that letting rich people keep their own money is actually “welfare for the rich.” News Flash: welfare is when you give people money that is not theirs, not when you let them keep what they earned. I honestly believe these people believe the things that they say, because to believe otherwise means I’m even more cynical than I already know I am. I would like to believe they have some integrity, even if I do think their position is misguided. I can at least respect that.
In regards to statement 1, I think only 3 things are possible:
a) Valerie Jarrett is telling the truth, and Obama really was just lying to people to get elected. So much for change we can believe in and a new kind of politics.
b) Valerie Jarrett is lying, and Obama really does want to redistribute wealth, but now she has to try to convince business people to invest even though Obama wants to take their profits because, you know, “at a certain point you’ve made enough.”
c) Valerie Jarrett is telling the truth, and Obama really did believe in social justice and income redistribution, but just got a little overheated in his campaign rhetoric — and now that he’s in charge and he sees that it was a lot eaiser to criticize other people’s policies than it is to actually come up with your own policies that work, he’s changed his mind and is trying to be more constructive with business leaders.
For our economy’s sake, I really hope it’s that last one. (But I suspect it’s the second.)