Friday, February 06, 2009

Deck Chairs on the Titanic

The shipboard news today is that the new president is tightening his grip on the helm as Republicans reach for the wheel, but only a few dour souls are up on deck scouring the horizon for icebergs.

Obama rallies Congressional Democrats at their retreat: "We're not going to get relief by turning back to the very same policies that, for the last eight years, doubled the national debt and threw our economy into a tailspin. We can't embrace the losing formula that says only tax cuts will work for every problem we face, that ignores critical challenges like our addiction to foreign oil, or the soaring cost of health care, or failing schools and crumbling bridges and roads and levees.

"I don't care whether you're driving a hybrid or an SUV-- if you're headed for a cliff, you've got to change direction."

In the first-class lounge, Peggy Noonan sees passengers "braced" for impact while she points out that Obama's "serious and consequential policy mistake is that he put his prestige behind not a new way of breaking through but an old way of staying put. This marked a dreadful misreading of the moment. And now he's digging in. His political mistake, which in retrospect we will see as huge, is that he remoralized the Republicans. He let them back in the game."

Scanning the horizon, Paul Krugman points out that "most economic forecasts warn that in the absence of government action we’re headed for a deep, prolonged slump" and agrees that "the president made a big mistake in his initial approach, that his attempts to transcend partisanship ended up empowering politicians who take their marching orders from Rush Limbaugh."

Krugman and the Times editorial page call for full steam ahead, Republicans want to stop stoking the boilers and the rest of us keep trying to remember how we got shanghaied onto this luxury cruise in the first place.

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