David Brooks: Hope against faith

President Obama has concentrated enormous power on a few aides in the West Wing of the White House. These aides are unrolling a rapid string of plans: to create 3 million jobs, to redesign the health care system, to save the auto industry, to revive the housing industry, to reinvent the energy sector, to revitalize the banks, to reform the schools – and to do it all while cutting the deficits in half.

If ever this kind of domestic revolution were possible, this is the time and these are the people to do it. Yet they set off my Burkean alarm bells.

I fear that in trying to do everything at once, they will do nothing well. I fear that we have a group of people who haven’t even learned to use their new phone system trying to redesign half the U.S. economy.

I fear they are going to try to undertake the biggest administrative challenge in American history while refusing to hire the people who can help the most: agency veterans who are registered lobbyists.

I worry that we’re operating far beyond our economic knowledge.

Read it all.


Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Office of the President, Politics in General, President Barack Obama, The 2009 Obama Administration Bank Bailout Plan, The 2009 Obama Administration Housing Amelioration Plan, The Banking System/Sector, The Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--, The Fiscal Stimulus Package of 2009, The National Deficit, The Possibility of a Bailout for the U.S. Auto Industry, The September 2008 Proposed Henry Paulson 700 Billion Bailout Package, The U.S. Government, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner

10 comments on “David Brooks: Hope against faith

  1. Dave B says:

    “I fear they are going to try to undertake the biggest administrative challenge in American history while refusing to hire the people who can help the most: agency veterans who are registered lobbyists”

    He need not worry, President Obama so far has waivered about a dozen or so of these folks, another promise down the drain early due to huberis, inexperiance, and lack of knowledge about how DC works!

  2. libraryjim says:

    Yep. And Socialism-Lite is rolling into America, disguised as stimulus. But, hey, don’t worry, maybe the Conservatives can get their act together and put up good candidates for 2010 and take back the Legislative Branch. (I’m not holding my breath, however!)

  3. LeightonC says:

    Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose. The more things change, the more they stay the same. I believe the operative word here is change, especially with the current mis-administration.

  4. dwstroudmd+ says:

    Change! I hear the change a-comin’; it’s comin’ ‘roun’ the bend! I ain’t seen the sunshine since I don’ know when. Wait. That was a train originally, wasn’t it? Oi vey! Change! I wish I was a change man… .

    See, now it’s really here! What remains to be seen is if “…we can.”

    Or as another tune had it, we are now “sliding down the razor blade of life” from those bright collegial days afore 20 January 2009.

    Perhaps what is needed is inadaba and ubuntu? Or do serious leaders eschew chatting for action?

  5. John Wilkins says:

    Brooks raises some interesting points. And as someone who found Burke compelling I think he is a good rejoinder.

    But I don’t think Brooks gets that Obama is, in fact, quite conservative by temperament. He’s not a populist. He is more of a technocrat. And he has the support of most Americans. Because the government was so mismanaged by people who hated government, he’s got to recreate an infrastructure of institutions that can empower Americans – education, roads, bridges, energy supply, the banking system, communications. These allow commerce to work well, and are too expensive and long term for companies to run independently.

  6. Dave B says:

    JW When has Obama ever been a technocrat?.. Obama ran as a populist with powder puff slogans “change we can believe in”, “yes we can” etc with out ever defining them. When ask questions about the nuts and bolts Obama would slide the responsibility to others with out understanding the responsiblity of the person or oganization he would order to fufill his rhetoric. A classic example was when Obama said “I will order the Chiefs of staff to order the Generals to come up with a plan to end our involvement in Iraq”. Obama did not seem to realize the Military Chief of Staffs serve only as advisors to the President and are out side of the Chain of Command! Another example is when President Obama was asked about the workings of the Stimulus Package and said my Secratary of Treasury Will answer your questions. Geithner seemed to know little more than President Obama and laid an egg. Claiming moral high ground he had Johnson (who recieved a sweet heart Country Wide loan) of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac fame as an adviser! President Obama’s vetting staff reflects very poorly on his ability to select competent people. President Bush had one appointee fail to get confirmed. President Obama is now working on his third nominee for Secratary of Commerce! President Obama had little input in to the “Stimulus Package” and later stated “there are things in there I don’t like” after he had signed it. President Obama left the whole process to Ried and Pelosi hardly the engineers of competance!

  7. TACit says:

    Obama is not a technocrat, because he is not well enough educated. But he has technocrats all around him and a couple levels down, waiting to help implement the changes this Administration wants to perpetrate on the nation. He believes in technocracy.

  8. Dave B says:

    President Obama’s technocrates are sorely lacking. His appointment process has been horrible. His press secretary has made horrible mistakes. His transition people haven’t handled the details well. We are still waitng on how President Obama will close Gitmo. All of this speaks to a lack of precision and expertise one one expect in technocrates.

  9. austin says:

    But I don’t think Brooks gets that Obama is, in fact, quite … “conservative by temperament.”

    You know this from close personal encounters?

    I work in an office where three current staff members worked for Obama personally while he was a state senator. They are left-wing, and like the man immensely. They confirm that he is cautious about covering his tracks — maybe that’s what you mean by “in temperament”

    But if I told them that a well-placed person had informed me that Obama was conservative in any political sense, they would roll about laughing. He’s never even spent time with a conservative person, let alone engaged a conservative idea. Intellectually, he’s left to extreme left through and through.

  10. John Wilkins says:

    #10 Conservative by temperament – yes. I’m not the only person who argues this. There are radicals and conservatives. Radicals are driven by purity and ideology and think there is a new ideology on the horizon. Conservatives tinker, doubt that radical changes help, are skeptical about perfecting human nature, and believe that tradition has wisdom.

    Jeffery Hart, Christopher Buckley, Wick Allison had some similar perspectives.

    I do NOT think that Obama is a conservative in the way those who are frightened of “moral hazards” and idolize the rich kind of way. Obama’s not going to go outside the system to change the system. He’ll pick low hanging fruit that is easy to pass, and pinpoint weaknesses in the system to fulfill his agenda. If he was really a radical, he wouldn’t have gotten this far.