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Thoughts on Bruce Bartlett's Views on Obama vs. McCain on Dealing with the Economic Crisis

He thinks that Obama is not doing well, but that there is no reason to think that McCain would be doing any better:

The Arena - Politico's daily debate with policymakers and opinion shapers: I’ve gotten this question from several of my conservative friends lately. They know that I publicly declared my support for Barack Obama.... My friends seem to think that six weeks is enough time to render a verdict on Obama’s administration and declare it a total failure. In that time, he’s rammed a hugely expensive stimulus bill into law that will greatly expand the size of government, fumbled the bank bailout, and initiated a number of efforts to reverse George W. Bush’s policies. So, as a conservative, would I vote for Obama if I had it to do over again?

The answer is yes and the reason is simple: I have no reason to think John McCain would be doing any better. He has given no indication since the election that he has any better ideas about how to deal with the economic crisis than Obama does.... All I ever saw in McCain’s campaign was a continuation of the failed policies of George W. Bush that got us into the mess we are in today. The only vote I have ever cast for president that I regret is my vote for Bush in 2004. That is because I knew better at the time...

And Bartlett adds:

On a related point, I think it was irresponsible for Bush to leave office without leaving behind a blueprint of what he would be doing to deal with the economic crisis if he were still in office. He didn’t publish a budget—at all, not even a current services baseline—and his Economic Report was totally vacuous. If he had used his administration’s resources to develop an alternative policy before leaving office it would at least have provided a guide for his party to follow. That fact that he did NOTHING only proves that he didn’t give a crap about the American people or his party, either. His whole administration was about him, him, and only him. What an asshole.

Perhaps McCain would have had an easier time assembling a political coalition to enable a resolution of the banking sector crisis, perhaps not. Obama seems to be stuck. Restoring health to the banking system--and thus keeping us in a deep recession rather than in a depression--seems to me to require either (a) the socialization of losses--enormous presents to bankers and bank shareholders--or (b) nationalization. The Democratic left (and some Republicans) won't let Obama do (a). The Democratic right (and all Republicans) won't let Obama do (b). McCain might have been able to cobble together a coalition to do some version of (a).

On fiscal policy, I don't see that big a difference between Obama and McCain. McCain would do more tax cuts and fewer spending increases, but were he president right now Doug Holtz-Eakin, Mark Zandi, Phil Gramm, Carly Fiorina, and Kevin "Dow 36000" Hassett would be moving a similarly-sized stimulus package through congress with the unanimous support of all the Republican members and economists who are currently crying that fiscal policy is ineffective.

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