March 03, 2009
Jacob S. Hacker is co-director of the Center for Health, Economic, and Family Security at U.C. Berkeley, and a fellow at the New America Foundation. He recently edited Health at Risk: America's Ailing Health System--and How to Heal It. We hope he will be contributing to The Treatment on a regular basis. Like others obsessed with health reform (such as, say, Jon and Jon), I have been frenetically sifting the Obama administration's pronouncements.
March 02, 2009
Obama's Big Question
WASHINGTON--Our political system adjusts badly when the familiar landmarks erected during controversies of the past are swept away and prepackaged arguments become obsolete.
Coalition of the Unwilling
As Israeli politicians enter the last rounds of negotiations over forming a new government, the most likely result is a right-wing, ultra-Orthodox coalition that a majority of Israelis, including the man forming it, doesn't want.
In 2007, Barack Obama promised Planned Parenthood that "the first thing I would do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act" (FOCA), which would overturn federal and state restrictions on abortion, including the ban on partial-birth abortion. But not a single member of Congress has introduced the bill yet. Its original sponsor in previous sessions of Congress, Jerold Nadler of New York, said "it won't be [introduced] anytime soon," a spokesman told Time, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has indicated she has no plan to raise the issue.
Free Austan Goolsbee!
Bloomberg reports that Council of Economic Advisers appointees Ceci Rouse and Austan Goolsbee have been caught up in a Senate crossfire and have yet to be confirmed: March 2 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama’s economic advisers are increasingly concerned about the U.S. Senate’s delay in confirming the nominations of Austan Goolsbee and Cecilia Rouse to the White House Council of Economic Advisers.
Good News, Or No?
Over on The Treatment, Jonathan Cohn offers important background on the White House's new health care advisor.
When President Obama introduced Kathleen Sebelius as his nominee to be Secretary of Health and Human Services a few moments ago, he also introduced Nancy-Ann Min DeParle as his new White House health care advisor. You're going to hear a lot of talk about how important Sebelius is to Obama's plans for comprehensive health care reform--and, undoubtedly, she'll play an important role, particularly if and when it comes time to implement a reform scheme. But when it comes to crafting a reform plan and then enacting it, DeParle's role is likely to be even more important.
White House budget director Peter Orszag had an interesting blog item over the weekend responding to critics who noted that the GDP numbers underlying Obama's budget were far more optimistic than the GDP numbers the Congressional Budget Office recently used. The source of the discrepency, explains Orszag, is that the CBO numbers in question didn't account for the effects of the stimulus package--the whole point of which, after all, is to "stimulate" GDP growth.
Gates And Ricks On Obama's Iraq Plan
Perhaps he's just staying on message, but I was struck by Robert Gates' formulation yesterday--"fairly remote"--when he was asked whether Obama might slow our Iraq drawdown if violence spikes as we leave. Of course, as Tom Ricks notes grimly, we're going to be leaving a huge troop force behind for several more months--and a non-trivial one even past August 2010: Let me say this even more plainly: Our participation in this war ends not when one president hangs a "Mission Accomplished" banner or when another president declares that combat has ended, but when American troops stop being killed the
Bob Samuelson's Elitist Economics
According to Robert Samuelson in this morning's Washington Post, the heart of the housing crisis isn't foreclosures, but the lack of demand, driven by the self-fulfilling expectation that prices have further to fall. But "the Obama administration," he writes, "essentially ignores this problem, though it can be addressed." Except that Obama is addressing it, with an $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers--a fact that Samuelson concedes later in the piece, but then dismisses.