Economic Policy: Obama and Clinton

Today’s Wall Street Journal has columns by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama’s advisors.  In a post last week I chided Mitt Romney for glib generalities.  Now Clinton gives us the opposite extreme:  government by laundry list.  Remember some of the awful State of the Union speeches, in which the President (pick any recent president you wish) says: "There’s a problem with X; I have a new program.  There’s a problem with Y; I have a new program.  There’s a problem with Z; I have a new program."  Well, that’s Hilary’s column.  I liked the internal consistency of her message at first, in that she presented a broad area of concern, then specified action steps to deal with the area.  That appeals to my analytical side.  But she shows no real philosophy about how government should operate, merely that for every conceivable problem there should be a new government program.  Gag.

If you don’t like laundry lists of specifics, then Obama is your man.  He apparently believes in content-free leadership.  His major theme: bringing people together.  Ending the divisive partisanship that infects Washington DC.  I’m not sold that a) he can end partisanship, and that b) we’ll get better policy without partisanship.  He has not made that case (it would require specifics, which Obama isn’t in to).  I confess that I really miss the Bill Clinton administration, when gridlock prevented action and we were all focused on that blue dress.  Remember, the economy was strong and the budget was in surplus while Congress was gridlocked.  Sigh.

Obama’s other major theme is change.  Now, I’m a change kind of guy.  Shake things up, turn ’em on their head.  Fine.  But for a presidential candidate, I think you have to ask, "Change from what, to what?"  Another one of those pesky points that Obama is too big to deal with.

The two columns help illustrate the major difference in style between the two candidates, which I posted about last month, describing David Leonhardt’s New York Times article.

Thankfully, I don’t have to vote in the Democratic primary.  I’m afraid I’d write in Ron Paul.