The Obama Pattern

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The Obama Administration appears to me to be pursuing many goals, poorly. Here are four:

1) The stimulus failed to meet Larry Summers' famous criteria of timely, targeted, or temporary.


2) The cap and trade legislation maximizes rent-seeking (favoritism toward particular businesses) and minimizes carbon reduction.

3) The proposed financial reforms are mostly cosmetic and fail to address the key issues of housing policy and regulatory capital arbitrage.

4) In championing health care reform, the President stresses the unsustainability of our current system, while insisting that nothing will change (you can keep your insurance, keep your doctor, etc.).

The pattern that I see is one of following the path of least political resistance, even if it means failing to make any significant contribution to solving the actual public policy problem. I cannot say that I am completely shocked by this. It is sort of Public Choice 101. But there are a lot of bright, highly-educated people in the Obama Administration who, if they were to step back and evaluate what is happening, would see the pattern for what it is. They believe that they inherited such bad policies that they could not possibly do worse. That belief is starting to look shaky.

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Arnold Kling

Arnold Kling earned his Ph.D in economics at MIT. He was an economist on the staff of the Federal Reserve Board. From 1986-1994 he worked at Freddie Mac. He started Homefair.com in 1994 and sold it in 1999. His fourth book, From Poverty to Prosperity, co-authored with Nick Schulz, is due out in April of 2009. He blogs regularly at Econlog.
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