General Motors has come to Washington, begging for a $25 billion bailout to keep it and its ailing Detroit counterparts going next year. But nobody seems too thrilled about the prospect. Liberals dwell on the companies’ gas-guzzling sport-utility vehicles. Conservatives obsess over all the well-paid union members with gold-plated benefits. And people of all ideological backgrounds remember how they used to buy domestic cars, years ago, but stopped because the cars were so damn lousy.
I'll have more to say on Max Baucus's health care announcement tonight or tomorrow. (Boy, did I pick the wrong day to spend out of the office reporting!) Quickly, though, I want to highlight one key development. In the full paper, Baucus says it will take three to four years before we'd get to universal coverage. But that doesn't mean he wants to delay working on a bill. Here's what Carol Guthrie, spokesperson for the Democratic staff at the Finance Committee, just told me: Senator Baucus would like to move a comprehensive reform bill in 2009.
As reported in this week's edition, Max Baucus and his staff at the Senate Finance Committee have been working on health care reform since the beginning of summer. Today, he will publish a preliminary outline of what he has in mind. Afterwards, he plans to resume discussions with Senator Ted Kennedy and his staff at the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. They still hope to produce one joint bill, although--as Ezra Klein noted--tensions over committee turf may get in the way. What will Baucus propose?
Noam has made most of the essential points about Lawrence Summers, who remains (as far as I know) one of two people under consideration to become Barack Obama's Secretary of the Treasury. But I wanted to add one thought, relevant--I hope--to other liberals like me. On the issues I know best and over which the Treasury Secretary has sway, Summers is good. Very, very good. In the last few years, he has become a persistent critic of inequality and advocate for government action to redress it.
You hear lots of talk about which former president Barack Obama should use as a model. Bill Clinton comes up regularly. Franklin Roosevelt, too. But what about the guy in the White House now? I know, President Bush’s approval ratings are hovering around 30 percent. This election was in many ways a referendum on his tenure and the verdict could not have been more unambiguous. The voters didn't like it. “Saturday Night Live” got an entire skit (and a pretty funny one) out of John McCain trying to escape the stigma of his failure. But was Bush really a “failure”?
ABC's "This Week" just had a terrific roundtable about Obama's legislative ambition. For the last few weeks, most of the A-list pundits have been arguing that Obama needs to jettison some of his grandiose plans, given the high budget deficits he will inherit and dangers of overreaching politically. Fareed Zakaria argued against this, strongly, and made two crucial points. One was about the analogy to 1993, when high deficits compelled Bill Clinton to ditch his spending plans.
At my local drug store this morning, two people were in line to buy special editions of the Detroit Free Press, commemorating Barack Obama's election. One had come from a nearby grocery store, which was already out of them. Alas, he and the other customer were out of luck. Rite-Aid's supply was gone, too. Yesterday, the News and Free Press had printed an extra 30,000 copies of their regular editions, the ones actually bringing the news of Obama's election. Those didn't last too long, either. And what's happening in Detroit has been happening all over the country.
Which Senator holds the most sway over Barack Obama's domestic policy agenda? The answer probably isn't Hillary Clinton, Ted Kennedy, or even Harry Reid. Instead, as Ezra Klein points out in a lengthy feature piece today, it's probably Max Baucus. Baucus is chairman of the Senate Finance Commitee, whose jurisdiction includes virtually any legislation that requires raising or lowering taxes. Middle class tax cuts. Universal health insurance. Cap-and-trade.
Today on MSNBC's Hardball, Politico columnist Roger Simon offered some advice to the President-Elect: Get past ideology and just deliver progress. As he explained it--and, apologies, I didn't take direct notes--American voters don't want big, pitched battles in Washington. They just want somebody to pass laws and enact programs that will make their lives better. I've heard this argument many times before. And, in a sense, it's true.
Barack Obama's campaign began with lofty appeals to idealism, as he called upon supporters to build a movement that could change the way we relate to each other. It ended with a series of concrete, pedestrian promises, as Obama vowed to deliver jobs, health care, and lower prices at the pump. But tonight in Chicago, standing before a crowd of cheering throngs in Grant Park, Obama rediscovered his former self. Conjuring up the old language of idealism, and reaching out to his vanquished opponent, Obama renewed his plea for unity and common purpose.